Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page is one of President Barack Obama’s more reliable defenders–or, more accurately, a reliable critic of Obama’s critics. Yet Page asks a key question in his column Sunday: “Would a younger Obama vote for his new military action?” The answer, Page suggests throughout, is “no”–and highlights the hypocrisy in Obama’s stance.
Noting broad public and congressional opposition to a Syria strike, Page recounts how Obama built his political reputation and his presidential campaign on his vehement opposition to the Iraq War, which was then being justified to the public by President George W. Bush in terms similar to those that Obama is using to justify military action in Syria today:
In a speech at a Chicago anti-war rally in October 2002 that would prove pivotal to his 2008 presidential rise, Obama, than an Illinois state senator, famously made a case against President George W. Bush’s Iraq War that ironically describes why so many people oppose Obama’s proposed Syria attack.
He did not oppose all wars, Obama forcefully pointed out, but he opposed “a dumb war. A rash war.” No question that Saddam Hussein was “a brutal man,” said Obama back then, “… who butchers his own people to secure his own power.” But Obama also pointed out that Saddam “… poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States.”…
The circumstances in Syria are different. Iraq, for example, did not have the weapons of mass destruction that our bogus intelligence reports said they had. By contrast, on Aug. 21 a poison-gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria’s capital, killed more than 1,400 civilians.
But the “clear rationale,” clear goals and “strong international support” that separates smart policy from “dumb” wars is lacking….
Page goes on to note that Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made a poor case in the Senate and House last week, particularly in their fumbling attempts to reassure elected officials that the limited strike that Obama seeks on Syria will not lead to “mission creep” that takes the U.S., unprepared, to a boots-on-the-ground war.
“Team Obama did not want to speculate about that. But those are the kind of questions I think Sen. Obama would have asked,” he concludes.