Who Should the President Listen To?


I find it hard to believe that we can find anyone
who wants to be President of the United States even if you do get a jet and a
cool code name like POTUS. The dialogue around the issue of what the President
should do about Syria will give you whiplash if you really listen. First we
have Assad crossing Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons against his own
people (observers believe). Is he deliberately goading America? We have used
chemical weapons against our foes in war, but, so far, not against our own
people. Using chemical weapons, we have come to believe, is abhorrent and we
find that they should be banned on moral grounds. However if other countries
have such weapons we feel we must keep some also.

So as soon as Assad crossed that red line reporters
began interviewing persons who harangued Obama to do something to punctuate our
disapproval of Assad’s behavior. They are the hawks. They believe America must
fight on the side of the downtrodden especially if they are striving to be free
and that we must do this every time authoritarian monsters refuse their people
justice. Some of the hawks doing the verbal prodding are the usual hawks like
John McCain, but this time we also have Richard Engel, who we respect, urging
America to get involved in Syria.

So President Obama announced that he will bomb
certain key military targets in Syria and he will do it soon. He is looking for
some support from other nations. It looks like there will be a few takers but
not the UN, because Syria has big allies there. Perhaps Obama is remembering
World War I where big nations allied to a small nation started a huge war over
a small incident. Perhaps bombing a smallish country which has giant allies,
who are not our friends, makes Obama a bit nervous, as it should.

No matter, as soon as the President announced what
he planned to do the criticisms came in from the other side. They complained
that it is not enough. They said it will either have no effect, or it will drag
us into a new Middle Eastern war. They said that it is a declaration of war and
requires the approval of Congress. Is it a trap to furnish the GOP with grounds
for the much heralded impeachment of Obama if he acts without consulting
Congress? Whatever, it sounds like the fallout will be far more negative than
positive and yet if Obama doesn’t back up that red line statement the fallout may
also be negative, because then Obama will appear weak, they say (feckless is the new
preferred insult and applies equally, it seems, to both Obama and to members of

Our actions in war no longer have the unified
support we experienced prior to Vietnam and which we have never really experienced
since the end of World War II. A President must walk his own line and ignore
the siren calls from both sides of the aisle, but it must feel like arrows to
the soul, especially when the right thing to do is not absolutely certain or
clearly apparent. At least if we decided to back the path our President chooses,
those actions would have the weight of America behind them, but this way we
just look like a bunch of cats in a canvas bag clawing each other. I don’t want
America to lose the weight it carries in the world of nations. I hope Obama has
a good idea of what decision to make, because I don’t have a clue.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com