In an incredible display of bipartisan blindness, leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have now declared their support for President Obama’s proposal for action against Syria. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stated on Tuesday, “I’m going to support the president’s call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons “cannot be ignored.” She added, “Humanity drew the red line, not President Obama.” She stated, in a moment of almost unbearable irony, that the UN was acting far too slowly, and should not hold up action. She then invoked the foreign policy wisdom of her 5-year-old grandson to support the potential strike: “My five-year-old grandson, as I was leaving San Francisco yesterday, he said to me, Mimi, my name, Mimi, war with Syria, are you yes war with Syria, no, war with Syria. And he’s five years old. We’re not talking about war; we’re talking about action. Yes war with Syria, no with war in Syria. I said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ He said, ‘I think no war.’ I said, ‘Well, I generally agree with that but you know, they have killed hundreds of children, they’ve killed hundreds of children there. ‘ And he said, five years old, ‘Were these children in the United States?’ And I said, ‘No, but they’re children wherever they are.'”
House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) also came out in support of Congressional authorization to use force in Syria: “I intend to vote to provide the President of the United States the option to use military force in Syria. While the authorizing language will likely change, the underlying reality will not. America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States.”
The sudden consensus forming around giving President Obama authority to use military force in Syria willfully ignores the president’s own views on Syria. Obama has said that he will not authorize action aimed at regime change; he has suggested that action will be limited in scope and duration; he has articulated no actual end goals of engaging in military action.
In reality, there are three paths the United States could take in Syria: yes, no, and the worst possible option. “Yes” would mean action strong enough to either disarm the Syrian regime or replace it completely, providing a credible threat to Iran regarding her own nuclear weapons program but risking an al Qaeda takeover in the country; “No” would mean watching from afar as Syria continues to remain an internal struggle; “Worst Available Option” would be getting involved just enough not to achieve a decisive victory – just enough, as White House officials were quoted last week as saying, to avoid mockery of President Obama.
That third option is the Obama option. It is the same option utilized by President Bill Clinton in 1998 when he hit several camels and an aspirin factory in Sudan with cruise missiles in retaliation for the al Qaeda bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Al Qaeda survived; Osama Bin Laden came back to haunt the United States at both the USS Cole and on 9/11. Half-assed action does not deter anyone, or achieve any purpose.
In order to justify the military action Obama wants to take, Republicans and Democrats should be forced to explain how those actions will achieve desired ends. Thus far, here are the reasons articulated by the Obama administration and its allies on why the United States should take military action against Syria:
American credibility is on the line. “Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move as one nation,” Obama said in the Rose Garden on Saturday. Many top politicians feel that American credibility is on the line thanks to Obama’s idiotic “red line” drawn on Syrian use of weapons of mass destruction in 2012. But the fact is that Obama’s credibility has already been shot – by Obama. By proclaiming imminent action, then limiting that action, then sending it to Congress, he has demonstrated that he has no desire to take the sort of action that would provide American credibility in the Middle East.
Iran must be deterred. This is the rationale expressed by Boehner on Tuesday: “We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up whether it is necessary.” But “limited” military action in Syria without a goal of regime change will not do that. Iran’s mullahs are no fools. They understand that President Obama is a paper tiger; the Obama administration has routinely leaked Israeli security information in hopes of preventing an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and the Obama administration remained largely silent during the 2009 protests in Iran. The Obama administration has even allowed Iraq, once a strong anti-Iran force in the region, to become a quasi-proxy state for the mullahs. Tossing a few cruise missiles into Syria without serious consequence would only serve to embolden Iran, which would rightly perceive that the sooner it goes nuclear, the better the chances of deterring American action against it.
It is in the interests of America’s allies, especially Israel, to strike Syria. This is the excuse most frequently cited by Obama’s allies in Congress. Cantor stated on Tuesday, “It is not just an abstract theory that the Syrian conflict threatens the stability of key American partners in the region. It is a reality.” But the Syrian conflict has been raging for years, with over 100,000 dead. Why is now the proper time for intervention? And why would leaving Assad in power accomplish anything on behalf of America’s allies? Assad has already threatened to launch a regional war against Israel, in the same way that Saddam Hussein did during the first Gulf War, in an attempt to unify the Muslim world against the Jewish state. Right now, the Syrian civil war has had little impact on Israel. But that will change quickly once Syria begins firing missiles at Tel Aviv. At that point, Israel will fire back. Will the United States then stick to President Obama’s “limited” use of military force, and leave Israel to fend for herself? Or will the United States get deeper and deeper into a conflict that has nothing to do with the United States, and has no clear allies and enemies for American national interests?
The use of chemical weapons violates basic standards of human conduct. Virtually everyone agrees that, if proved, the use of chemical weapons by Assad represents a shocking breach of basic human morality. This is Obama’s chief argument in favor of intervention. On Saturday, he stated, “Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” Obama did not say the same thing when it came to Saddam Hussein gassing Kurds, but ignore the hypocrisy for the moment. The question becomes: does the United States have an obligation to intervene whenever weapons of mass destruction are used? If so, what should that intervention look like? It is easy for Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to compare what happened in Syria with the Holocaust, and compare inaction here to inaction then. But there is one major difference: American interests were obviously at stake during World War II. America had a clear plan of victory. Neither is the case here.
In order for American action in Syria to be effective, there must be a plan, an end goal, a serious articulation of what happens after the cruise missiles hit. The Obama administration has presented no such plan, articulated no such goal. This entire charade has been played out because President Obama has encouraged Iran, emboldened Islamists, and spoke without thinking on Syria a year ago. The fact that politicians of both parties apparently want to sanction such a self-centered and anarchic foreign policy, in direct conflict with the desires of the American people and in direct contravention of both logic and American interests, demonstrates the true cowardice of our DC elites.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).