I’m not quite ready to throw out my Obama t-shirts and campaign buttons but he’s got me squirming. Granted the so-called Arab Spring is a muddled picture which will only be sorted out half a century hence but our administration has mishandled the Syrian conflict. Red lines, ultimatums and missteps have discredited his presidency, split his party and created repugnant bedfellows.
Did I miss the proclamation that conferred supreme authority to the U.S. for policing the planet and dispensing punishment? Who are we to claim the moral high ground after decimating Iraq? In the eyes of the developing world it is the United States alone that dropped two nuclear bombs, blundered into Southeast Asia and continues to have hundreds of thousands of troops stationed abroad.
A surgical strike against Damascus is the fevered dream of a punitive mind. It will change nothing except to possibly provoke a response against Israel or ignite a conflict even beyond that region. What we call limited may not be so contained as we may think. Scold and slap could easily lead to shock and awe.
Obama had been proceeding along a calculated line of measured constraint relative to Egypt and even Libya. He seemed to be threading the needle and successfully ignoring the clamor from McCain and the Neo-Cons who never met a war they didn’t love. It has been his own reckless rhetoric that has gotten Obama into this no-win crisis. Whether he was goaded into verbal outrage or he has bought into it is a matter of conjecture but it issues from an assumption of American hegemony as if our arsenal grants us the privilege to intercede anywhere and call it a matter of national security. It reeks of the missionary mind set.
Indeed the use of Sarin gas is reprehensible but a retaliatory measure would undoubtedly add to the loss of life. One violation of International Law is not remedied by another. War crimes are a matter for the World Court. It is enough for now that we denounce the act, bring our evidence to the General Assembly of the United Nations and urge some sort of universal condemnation. A military response is irresponsible, illegal, counterproductive and undermines the U.N.
Obama is, of course, also the Commander-In-Chief presiding over the mightiest military in human history but it comes at the moment that tribal societies long under the press of Western powers are convulsing with forces in several directions. Our role has yet to be articulated or even formulated. I should have known better than expect my president to rise above the fray. There is little reason to suppose he has the political muscle or the will to bring our legions home and divert our enormous resources away from weaponry toward domestic imperatives.