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Syria is not our problem. Our problem is a President who seems unable to combat rhetoric. In an attempt to buy time and deal with criticism from the voluble President Clinton and relentless warmongering commentary from Charles Krauthammer, the U.S. Administration has decided to supply the Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunitions. This, despite polls indicating that Syria should not be made into a political yardstick for presidential performance.

If abstaining from involvement works for the American public (as polls indicate), Obama’s attempt at appeasement pleases no one. With trenchant disdain, The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called the announcement a “pittance of a policy.” And with knee jerk reactiveness Krauthammer questioned, “What’s he going to do? Add chicken to the tuna we’re giving them in the food aid?”

Clinton, citing examples of Kosovo and Bosnia from his own term to support his Syrian interventionist stance, judiciously refrained from mentioning Rwanda or Somalia where a bad situation became worse after U.S. involvement.

History has shown us several dismal results of foreign interference. Consider Afghanistan in the 1980s when U.S. foreign policy revolved on routing the Russians from Afghanistan with the supply of arms to the rebel Mujahideen faction. Osama bin Laden was part of that faction.

During the Sri Lankan Civil War, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi remarked, “We have never interfered with the internal developments of any country in the past and we will not do so now.” Not much later, India did intervene in Sri Lanka, angering the Tamil Tigers who later assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the son of the same head of state who had vowed not to interfere.

Why should the United States intervene in Syria? Are we sure that we will effect a desired outcome? As Hans J. Morgenthau once said, “We have come to overrate enormously what a nation can do for another nation by intervening in affairs—even with the latter’s consent. This overestimation of our power to intervene is a corollary of our ideological commitment, which by its very nature has no limit.”

When it comes to dealing with strictures, Obama would do well to heed the Chicken Little moral. The sky is a long way from falling, no matter how many doomsayers predict it.

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan is editor emeritus, contributing writer, and board member of India Currents. She is a veteran journalist, essayist, and fiction writer with over 250 published articles and short stories....