Into the Fray, The Red Line

 
 
 
Everyone is up in arms. Obama made the use of chemical
weapons in Syria a red line. Late last week the news came across the seas that
some chemical weapons “may have been used in Syria”, and “that there is some
physiological evidence that some people exhibited symptoms of a chemical agent
having been deployed in their vicinity.” It is all very tentative and not at
all what we would imagine a full-scaled chemical weapons attack to be like. I
think Obama’s red line depended on a getting a little more solid evidence than
this about a chemical attack. However that may be, there have been rabid people
all over the media taunting Obama to deliver on his promise and to declare that
the red line has been crossed and to get more aggressively involved in helping
the Syrian freedom fighters gain their independence from Assad. Of course, John
McCain is the loudest and most strident of those who are apparently (they
think) calling Obama’s bluff.

But I have to wonder what it is that they want Obama to do
and I kept asking that of my TV on Sunday, which is Politics Day. I kept
saying, “Do we want a war? What exactly is it that you want Obama to do?
Surprisingly enough, after some initial difficulty getting through to my flat
screen I did get some answers. Everyone agreed that they did not want “boots on
the ground”. One suggestion is that we establish a no-fly-zone. Another is that
we get more involved in the care of the refugees in Jordan and Turkey and
elsewhere around the edges of Syria. There were also some caveats since this
group of freedom fighters is not one unified group but is rather a collection
of sectarian groups and even perhaps terrorist groups who may be at each
other’s throats once hostilities end.

There is also the “no good deed goes unpunished” rule. We
are likely to end up being hated and vilified regardless of what path we decide
to take. This is not a real win-win situation for us. We do like to treat
victims of abuse with compassion and the Syrian people looked pretty well abused
right now. And we do like to back freedom whenever possible. Will we feel good
enough about ourselves if we accomplish these goals, whatever the cost, and
whoever we offend? These are all questions Americans and our American President
must answer. Meanwhile all you hawks, stop acting like bullies. Stop yelling at
the President.  You imply that the
President and the US will look weak if we don’t act, but the President may also
appear weak if he lets people goad him into precipitous action.  Show some understanding of how difficult it
is to deal with the complex issues America faces in the 21st
century. Let’s let there be a little time to collect better evidence of
chemical weapon use and time to make a careful decision before we throw
ourselves into the fray.
Here’s a link to an article that gives some clear and
up-to-date information on this red line issue:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/implications-of-possible-chemical-weapons-use-in-syria

This article appeared in the Daily Beast today, April 29,
2013:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/27/leslie-h-gelb-obama-is-right-on-chemical-warfare-in-syria.html

 

 

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