September 9, 2013
Caution Is In The Wind
By Brady Willett

Having accidentally misplaced one word on his first attempt, on January 21, 2009 President Obama took the oath of office for a second time. The White House said this second oath was taken “out of an abundance of caution”. In light of the developing Syria situation, one cannot help but wonder where this caution has gone wrong…

First and foremost, the problem with the U.S. dropping bombs on Syria is that there is no moral justification. Rather, despite the gruesome and ongoing civil war in Syria (which has killed more 100,000 and displaced more than 7 million), the U.S. has not directly been harmed. Moreover, the case can be made that military action against Assad could simply aid rebel factions that are more of threat to U.S. interests than Assad’s regime.

Secondly, the U.S. has not shared much evidence that Assad’s regime was behind the chemical attack that killed more than 1,400. In the run-up to the war in Iraq a lot of evidence was released by the U.S. and the bulk of this evidence has proven inaccurate. Thus, why is releasing no evidence against Assad’s regime even being considered as a justification for war?

Finally, there is the growing suspicion that a strike against Syria has little to do with chemical weapons. To be sure, with sickening speed the vague idea of somehow punishing Assad (not by killing him or ridding his regime of chemical weapons mind you), has morphed into grand geostrategic speculations and arguments about saving face for Obama.

* McDonough says attack on Assad regime would send message to Iran

* Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni: …the U.S. is now "committed" to action because of the "problem ... of red lines."

* “If the United States doesn't deal with Syria,
Graham promised Iran would acquire a nuclear weapon by 2014, the King of Jordan would be deposed and Israel would start preparing to protect itself.
"I believe that if we get Syria wrong, within six months -- and you can quote me on this," Graham said, pausing for dramatic effect. "There will be a war between Iran and Israel over their nuclear program."”

U.S. president must follow through with threats or look weak, despite no threat to West

Beyond the blatant warmongering, there is also the growing speculation from some that even though America’s global influence has been weakening for some time, it is now under direct attack by Assad and others.

“The more America steps back, the more other powers will step in. If it is unwilling to act as enforcer, its own norms will fray. If it is even thought to be reluctant, then they will be tested. China already prods at America; Vladimir Putin’s Russia has begun to confront it—and not only over Syria. Whether Syria was a vital American interest before this attack was debatable, but not after Mr Assad’s direct challenge to Mr Obama’s authority.”

The remarkable thing about this aggressive commentary from the Economist is that it doesn’t even mention that Assad’s regime has been battling the Free Syrian Army, Al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra, and other rebel factions since 2011. Under attack and with his country falling apart, is Assad really focused on challenging Obama’s authority?  The Economist continues:

“Meeting Mr Assad’s atrocities with appropriate force will help to rebuild American moral authority in the world”

Take out the word moral and this statement may ring true.  However, when the majority of the world (and majority of Americans for that matter) do not believe that bombing Syria is the best course of action, by what moral compass is taking such severe action really following?

At the time of this writing the UK had already voted down attacking Syria and only the U.S. and France have military ambitions. This lack of support may be the result of a war-weary world unwilling to enter another prolonged and potentially fruitless foray into another country in the Middle East. It may also have just as much to do with concern over the complex and dangerous situation(s) that may arise once bombs start being dropped. Whatever the rational, there is currently no rush to war (even as some try create one), and President Obama has gone against his advisors in calling for a vote in Congress.

Ironically, it is this abundance of caution from Obama that now threatens to add fire to the condition of looming war(s), and, given the likely bombing of Syria, begs the question: would a more reckless and immediate response from Obama have been preferable path?

Beyond the confusion and speculation, there is a basic observation and connection to be made.  After all, recall that some countries are repatriating gold reserves held in the U.S., others are enraged that the U.S. has spied on them, and still others deride unsustainable U.S. fiscal and monetary policies. The Syria situation is yet another event that comments on the U.S.’s weakening global influence.


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