Obama's Syria speech stirs Iraq deja vu

Is there an echo in here? It seems as though we have been here before. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON September 11, 2013 — Last night President Obama addressed the people of the United States and updated them on the events of the crisis in Syria. With every word, the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military in the World brought his case for military action against Syria to the American public and their representatives, while simultaneously vowing to explore every diplomatic option. It was a speech steeped in strong language, compelling arguments for action, and warnings of the failure to act accordingly.

“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.”


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It was reminiscent of another speech, made by another President, before another war.

Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today - and we do - does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?”

Obama went on to discuss the dangers of letting Syria continue to engage in behavior that could potentially affect neighboring countries.

“If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass  destruction, and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran — which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon, or to take a more peaceful path.”


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Which sounded a lot like…

“Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles; far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work.”

President Obama was also concerned about the potential procurement of these weapons by terrorist organizations in the area, endangering American interests globally.

“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield. And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.”


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Which sounded a lot like…

“Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.”

President Obama made the case that he has gone the route of diplomacy and has almost exhausted his options.

“I agree, and I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning and negotiations — but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

Which sounded a lot like…

“Some believe we can address this danger by simply resuming the old approach to inspections and applying diplomatic and economic pressure. Yet this is precisely what the world has tried to do since 1991.”

In order to give force and strength to his argument, President Obama invoked the words of a previous wartime President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.” Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.”

Which sounded a lot like…

“As President Kennedy said in October of 1962, “Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world,” he said, “where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril.”

President Obama outlined the fact that failure to take action could spell dire consequences for the World.

“Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?”

 Which sounded a lot like…

“Failure to act would embolden other tyrants, allow terrorists access to new weapons and new resources, and make blackmail a permanent feature of world events.”

 And of course, President Obama concluded his remarks with strong rhetoric and compelling words.

“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

Which sounded a lot like…

“We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. And by our actions, we will secure the peace and lead the world to a better day.”

President Obama has delayed the Syrian vote until further notice, allowing him time to seek other diplomatic avenues towards a peaceable solution. Russia has offered to oversee the dismantling of President Assad’s chemical weapons cache, but only under the stipulation that the United States remove a possible military strike on Syria as a future option. 

 


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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