CALIFORNIA May 2, 2013 – President Obama’s press conference on Wednesday covered topics ranging from Health Care Reform, to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, to the NBA to foreign affairs. Although each is controversial in its own right, the Syria and Benghazi statements were the most troubling.
It’s one thing to differ over the merits of particular policy positions or to debate long term implications of proposed legislation. It’s quite another for a President to willfully mislead or deceive the public on matters in which he has direct and consequential impact. As our nation’s Commander in Chief, President Obama wields incredible power with global implications. How that power is used either shows the strength of our national convictions or a weakness that only baits our enemies.
The office of the Presidency deserves respect, not only because it’s entrusted with immense power through an elective process, but because national authority deserves respect when it fulfills its God-ordained role to protect its citizens and exercise proper justice (see Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 for our duty to authority). But when it becomes obvious that the individual occupying the Presidency is either incompetent or an opportunist conning the public, it is important to call it the way it is. This is even more important when a complicit news media refuses to perform their traditional watchdog role for the public good.
For comparison purposes, think back to the Libyan revolution against long-time dictator Mohammar Gaddafi. President Obama justified military action against Gaddafi by claiming the possibility of large scale civilian casualties if Gadaffi was not removed. However, Obama’s leading from behind against a regime that posed no real threat to us demonstrated a hesitancy and weakness unbecoming of a world leader.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria is brutal, and the civil war has already claimed more than 70,000 lives. Assad is no respecter of life and has shown a willingness to kill as many as necessary to retain power. Whether these deaths are due to chemical weapons, bullets or bombs make no difference to those that are killed. Obama’s game-changing “red line” concerning the use of chemical weapons that can kill a “massive number of people in the most inhumane way possible” sounds good, but it trivializes and ignores the thousands of people who have already died in Syria’s civil war, and the thousands more likely to die through use of conventional weapons as the conflict rages.
Given the carnage to date, one has to wonder how Obama’s press conference claims of being a magnanimous “humanitarian donor” and providing “nonlethal assistance to the opposition” to Assad is consistent with “doing everything we can to protect the Syrian people” (this is reminiscent of James 2:15-16).
The reticence to commit our nation’s blood and treasure in another foreign campaign is understandable. But to try and stand tall with threats against chemical weapons use, then demand some TV CSI type of “chain of custody” criteria for proof is the language of a college professor, not a mature world leader (Proverbs 17:7). This need for specific detail can hardly be comforting to the tens of thousands of Syrians that will probably die in the months ahead, whether chemical weapons are used or not, if direct intervention doesn’t soon occur (Proverbs 3:27).
If weak leadership is not apparent enough with the Syrian situation, recall the attack last September on the US consulate in Benghazi. The President initially promoted a false narrative that a crude film was the cause for the violence. Over seven months later, not one perpetrator has been apprehended, even though Obama promised to “bring those who carried it out to justice”. Video recordings of the attack have never been publically shown, and the thirty or so evacuees have never been publically identified or allowed to be interviewed. For the President to claim in this press conference that “I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody’s been blocked from testifying” is a clumsy legal dodge to the actual question put to him concerning the survivors: “they’ve been blocked from coming forward…Will you help them come forward and just say it once and for all?”
This is reminiscent of the Nixon era “plausible deniability” tactic to delay facts from coming out, hoping most people will eventually lose interest.
Given his track record to date, there may never be enough factual evidence to convince Obama to do anything substantive in Syria. In contrast, evidence abounds in the Benghazi debacle but virtually nothing is forthcoming to show what our leadership actually did or did not do.
The world is a dangerous place, and United States’ resolve and forthrightness is critical as we face an uncertain future. But with this administration, our leadership in the world has been weak, inconsistent, and politically naive. These are not actions that endear us to our allies, or strike fear in the hearts of our sworn enemies. They are actions that are putting us all at greater risk.
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