Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Donít act foolishly on Syria

Like a little boy on the school yard, former U.S. President Bill Clinton has called out President Barack Obama, saying the current president risks looking like a “fool” if he doesn’t intervene militarily in Syria.
    As a former president, Clinton of all people should know it is better to look like a fool than actually be one. Committing U.S. troops in a civil war without a specific plan and a very specific exit strategy would be incredibly foolish.
    Barack Obama is President Obama, not Sen. Obama, because he campaigned to do what was necessary to end the United States’ involvement in another foolish military venture in Iraq. Both former Sen. Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary and Sen. John McCain in the 2008 general election supported continuation of the Iraq war. Now McCain, after a trip to Syria, is ready to go to war again.
    Syria is a murderous mess, at war with itself and with its neighbors. We know that Syrian President Assad is a corrupt, ruthless, violent dictator. We know a great deal less about the supposedly democratic rebels on the other side.
    The conflict, which appeared to start much like the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, has claimed more than 90,000 fatalities. In Syria, however, the conflict is a civil war in which human-rights violations have been committed on both sides.
    Obama drew a line in the sand when he proclaimed that the world would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons there. The evidence seems clear that Assad crossed that line, and Obama has responded by promising to provide the rebel forces with U.S. arms.
    Before McCain leads us off in the direction of putting American men and women on the ground, however, he might want to be absolutely certain that the nation is militarily, economically, psychologically, and politically prepared to face off in yet another war in the Middle East of which the scale, the objective and even the enemy are unclear.
    Ethnic cleansing against minorities is as likely to occur under a rebel-led government as under Assad. Chemical weapons’ falling into the hands of terrorist groups is more likely.
    It is not the president’s job to show off for Clinton or McCain nor to prove to them or to us that he is a strong leader. It would be cowardice to involve the lives of our men and women in uniform just to look tough now.
    Once again, it’s likely wiser and stronger, for the time being, to do little more than to monitor the internal conflict as it unfolds and to push the combatants to the negotiating table.

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