Editorial

Chemical reaction

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He was about to launch a military strike against Syria. Instead, a startled world saw US President Barack Obama undergo a very public road-to-Damascus moment. He had rediscovered the religion of congressional authorization—and that, without a doubt, is a good thing.

The decision to ask for an enabling vote from the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, before attacking the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons that intelligence sources say killed some 1,400 Syrians, was couched in anodyne terms, but in truth Obama’s rationale was rankly pragmatic. Having drawn a line in the sand, beyond which Assad could not cross without provoking an American military response, Obama found himself isolated, with a war-weary American public unable or unwilling to sympathize with him.

But the blinding light which struck him, and caused the scales to fall from his eyes, emanated all the way from across the Atlantic: the unexpected defeat in the British Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s resolution in favor of military action against Syria.

The close but decisive vote will have important consequences in the months to come for Cameron’s government, but its impact on the Obama administration was immediate. It was, to use a favorite term in American political rhetoric, a game-changer.

The White House has scrambled since then to convince both House and Senate that attacking Syria for engaging in illegal chemical warfare was in the United States’ national interest.

How, exactly?

One answer was proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, easily the loudest voice urging military action against the Assad regime. He told the House foreign affairs committee: “We need to send to Syria—and to the world, to dictators and terrorists, to allies and civilians alike—the unmistakable message that when we say ‘never again,’ we actually don’t mean sometimes, we don’t mean somewhere, we mean never again.” In other words, it was all about US credibility. (This would make the long-suffering Syrian people mere collateral damage, even in rhetoric!)

A second but related answer came all the way from Sweden, where Obama is currently visiting. The American commander in chief said: “My credibility is not on the line, the international community’s credibility is on the line and America and Congress’ credibility is on the line.” In other words, attacking Syria was important to the United States because it would restore or preserve the credibility of both the United States and of the US Congress. (This is an unsubtle rationalization that is absurd on its face.)

A third answer was suggested by Kerry when he spoke before the Senate foreign relations committee. The opposition to Assad, he said, “has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution.” He added: “And the opposition is getting stronger by the day.” The implication is that a military strike against the ruling Syrian regime would strengthen the position of the moderates in an increasingly brutal civil war. (This might be wishful thinking, though. US intelligence officials themselves suggest that there may be as many as 1,200 rebel groups in Syria, and that the most effective ones are the extreme Islamist forces.)

We find it worrying that that same Senate committee approved additional language asserting that it was “the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria”—an interventionist thrust that allows the United States considerable leeway for interpretation. It is, of course, possible that both chambers of Congress will end up granting Obama the authorization he desires, even though, at this point, and despite a few signal victories for the White House on the political battlefield, the final votes are too close to call.

But this is what should encourage members of that same international community Obama sought to implicate: It shouldn’t be easy to launch military strikes against other sovereign countries.

The situation in Syria is dire; the chemical attack contemptible. But because there is no guarantee that an American military attack will  not  worsen the situation, the slower Obama is to pull the trigger, the better for everyone.

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  • Julio7

    The obvious reason for US to strike Syria is because of Israel’s security.

    US doesn’t care if million of Muslims die. US care only because Syria might use chemical weapon against their neighbor Israelis.

    No more, no less.

  • graftbuster

    It is highly likely that evils Putin and his Chinese counterpart are the
    ones supplying gas to Syria. China cheaply manufactures the gas while Russia
    plays the middleman. If they lose Syria from USA’s liberation to save the lives of Syria’s
    citizens , naturally Russia and China loses a much-loved gas customer and suffers financial
    losses at the same time. Putin and his counterpart wants to show the world
    who the real global bosses are and will never acknowledge any evidence of Syrians
    dying from gas they supplied to the much bigger Evil Assad.

  • NEILMCNALLY

    Very well put,Fulpy

  • breakingbad_ww

    The World should consider the cost of inaction. When evil rears its ugly head, the World has to stand up and confront it. Just like the Holocaust, everyone was thinking Nazi Germany is someone else’s problem only to find out of the unspeakable evils committed by the Nazi Regime. Its the same thing with Syria only this time we are living in an information age and the video of the atrocity is immediately available. You have to understand how the depth of excruciating pain ad suffering the women and children were made to go through with this chemical gas before they died. Only after you understand their suffering will you know why this is considered a crime against humanity and why the world must react in outrage. The status quo is not benefitting the vast majority of peace-loving Syrians because the Devil is running the Syrian Regime.

  • Ragna_rok

    There are many reason why America wants to weaken Assad. They don’t want to replace him yet, because there are no visible leader yet that can handle the disintegrated nation make a united one. At worst case, it would be muslim terrorist that will take the helm and make Syria under a Taliban like government.

    Instability in the middle east and American intervention has many benefits in American interest.
    1. Their ally Israel will not have a external organize threat of war against this nation
    2. Due to instability, oil prices will be high, and it will benefit the American oil producers.
    3. The continous warfare will ensure that their US miliatry and defense industry will always have a large chunk of their national budget.
    4. It will keep Iran at its heels, focusing more on Syria and not Israel

    US government do not really much care about the number of casualties as long as it is not American casualties because it will endanger their image before American public. Its now just watch and wait stance between the Syria and the world what will US government will do.

  • Pangasugan

    This is typical of the world community. The same thing happened when Hitler invaded, Austria, Poland and Chekoslovakia and then massacred the Jews. Everyone delayed action and hopes for peaceful resolution.

    • shioktong

      Eventually, that instance will happen to us.

      The problem is our people and government won’t allow campaign for advancement in military weaponry because our people are used in begging for help & mercy and the government officials they want the money to their pockets.

  • INQ_reader

    Haven’t these americans learned from their invasion of Iraq? I am foreseeing a dirty war that will make the death of 1,400 Syrians as childs-play.

  • UrHONOR

    MANGHIHIMASOK na naman si Tebang maitum sa away ng kapit-bahay niyang si Kiko. Napagsabihan tuloy siya ng mga kakilala nya na huwag ng makiki-alam pa sa gulo ng ibang pamamahay. Ang dapat nyang asikasuhin daw ay ang satili nyang pamamahay na marami ding gulong nangyayari. Si Teban kasi, e, parang ano, kung saan masikip doon gustong pumasok o sumuot! :)

    Ang PAG-SASAWSAW ay hindi NAGWAWAGI at ang NAGWAWAGI ay hindi NAKIKISAWSAW.

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