The United States of America has long been the beacon and champion of individual freedom, human rights and democracy in the world—and our central foreign policy tenet since the end of the Cold War has been an unequivocal support of those seeking freedom across the globe from dictators and for democratizing societies. That moral clarity has helped us remain the world’s superpower. Our nation has never turned away from helping those aspiring for freedom and democracy. Until now, when the Barack Obama administration has had a tepid response at best, and an inept response, at worst, to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria.
The United Nations estimates that over 93,000 people have died in Syria since 2011 due to the brutality of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, including the use of chemical weapons.
Even President Obama’s own red line condition of Assad using chemical weapons against his own people did not evoke a meaningful response from this administration. As the Milwaukee Journal pointed out in their recent editorial, “after two years of hand-wringing and diplomatic posturing,” the Obama administration did a turnaround and said that the United States would provide small arms to the rebels—the announcement coming from a National Security official and not the President. As the Milwaukee Journal further pointed out, the Obama Administration decided “to outsource policy on Syria to the United Nations, where Russia and China exercised their veto power to block effective action.” Lack of United States leadership has since allowed Iran to step in and aid President Assad. Our U.S.
Ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, has admitted candidly in recent testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that such support from Iran, Russia and Hezbollah has emboldened President Assad and that he “thinks he still can win militarily” as opposed to seeking a diplomatic solution which could include his safe departure to another country.
As Bill Keller so eloquently pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed, Syria is not Iraq for many different reasons—chief among them is that “this is a genuine humanitarian crisis” that is also in our national interest to avoid Syria disintegrating and becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Vali Nasr, though a former Obama administration official and now critical of the Obama administration, says in his new book The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, “Gone is the exuberant American desire to lead in the world. In its place there is the image of a superpower tired of the world and in retreat.”
As President Ronald Reagan said wisely, we seek peace from strength—and that is sage advice for our current President who seems to want America in retreat and that is neither good for us or for the world at large. When American retreats, rogue nations rush in to fill that vacuum.
Rameysh Ramdas, an S.F. Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby.
No to Syrian intervention
There is likely to be a fight over the increase of debt ceiling in the U.S. Congress in September this year. We had one in 2011 and again in 2012. These fights have been debilitating to the U.S. economy. Not going to war in Iraq could have averted the two previous and the upcoming third debt ceiling fights. Without the Iraq war and that trillion dollar hole in the exchequer, a case could be made that the ill-conceived and uneccesary war in Iraq has prolonged the recession. But for that misadventure we could have had the economy humming at a good clip and the unemployment rate at more normal levels.
Past armed conflicts where America was not directly provoked or where American interests were not directly involved have left the United States poorer and morally bruised. Syria has not directly harmed the United States in any way nor are there any significant American interests involved. In addition it is not clear that the Syrian rebels do not have links to Al-Qaeda. Syria could become an Al-Qaeda safe haven after Assad is toppled.
This is not even considering the human costs of that war. So when the same people who convinced us about Iraq are now persuading us to get involved in Syria, it should be received with nothing but skepticism.
If we make a case for attacking Syria on humanitarian grounds, how about other cases of humanitarian abuse? After the Arab Spring there were protests on the streets of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which were put down by the respective regimes with force. Why not attack Bahrain? What about North Korea, which is the definition of a humanitarian catastrophe? The case for attacking Syria is as muddled as ever. The only way to ensure moral clarity is by a multi-national coalition thru the United Nations. Not a “coalition of the willing,” but a real coalition. So punting on Syria is absolutely the right move Military power signified by unilateral action against regimes that have fallen out of favor cannot be the only way to project American power. After all, several governments were felled in the Arab Spring not by American military might, but by the people of the Middle East using American social media software. Military force is fast becoming a blunt, crude and irrelevant instrument of foreign policy. One cannot forget that America’s military might is merely an offshoot of the economic dominance which has made this a coveted land. Not the other way around. So when potential military escapades threaten the very foundation of the nation we should just say NO. As Bill Clinton’s campaign message famously said “It’s the economy stupid!”
Mani Subramani works in the semi-conductor industry in Silicon Valley.