KERN: Obama's war in Syria: The Great Unifier

Obama stretches across racial, economic and party lines to find an issue on which there is overwhelming agreement: no war in Syria. Photo: AP

INDIANAPOLIS, September 8, 2013 — It seems that President Obama has finally found a cause that unites Americans. He has stretched across racial, ethnic, economic, and even party lines, and found an issue on which there is overwhelming agreement: Americans don’t want another war.


SEE RELATED: Are we prepared for war with Syria?


The President says he didn’t draw a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, the world did. But Obama said it more than once. It’s on tape.

The U.S. military says it supports the president. It has to, through the chain of command that begins at the Commander in Chief. But the military is sworn to support the Constitution, not the president. Many in the military have pointed out that distinction, for the first time in memory.


SEE RELATED: The worst case for Syria: A failed state and terrorist sanctuary


Congress, many of whose members have already been briefed by Secretary of State John Kerry and a less-enthusiastic Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marvin Dempsey, not only remain unconvinced, they are heading away from the president’s position.

The leader of the Christian church in Syria is on record saying he hopes the U.S. stays away. He is not an Assad puppet, nor is he a tool of the many rebel factions. He’s just a Syrian, and his sentiments probably reflect those of other “mere citizens.”


SEE RELATED: PICHT: Obama and Congress locked in a Syrian morality play


The President now says his red line is “the world’s problem,” but he has not offered a plan for “the world” to do anything, nor will he wait for “the world” to verify what’s happening, or to come up with a plan. He doesn’t have to. The logical conclusion in listening to that statement is that Obama thinks he speaks not only for the entire U.S., but that he takes his assumed role of “Leader of the Free World” seriously, as the rest of the world looks on and says, “Obama who?”

To make its case for going to war, the Administration has shown horrible videos of people suffering from what it says is a poison gas attack. It cannot positively link that gas attack to any particular group, however.

Here is the problem for the President: Even if what he says is true, what can a U.S. air strike do about it? What kind of limited action can make any sort of positive difference?

The other issues is the location of the caches of chemical weapons in Syria. How can the U.S. prevent their subsequent use, particularly as one side or the other feels increasingly desperate?

If the Assad regime is not the instigator of the several reported chemical attacks over the last year, then who is? Could rebel groups have access to sarin? Could rebel groups have made their own? Sarin is not difficult to manufacture; its production is not strictly confined to military sources. Even if the sarin used in the attacks is of military origin, whose military supplied it? What evidence does the lawyer-president have?

Still, even if the president is right about Assad’s being the bad guy here — and there are no “good guys,” people who will be staunch allies of the U.S. in gratitude for the intervention — and if the President is concerned about loss of life rather than the technology used to extinguish it, then how would punishing Assad help stop the bloodshed? President Assad seems to have the upper hand; weakening but not removing him would only prolong the civil war, costing even more lives.

All this supposes no other nation has a “red line” of its own, a red line about which it has wisely kept its public mouth shut. Suppose Russia or Iran, for instance, steps up aid to Assad. What’s the president’s next step? Does he take one? If not, what happens? If he does, what happens?

Worst of all, suppose an American raid somehow is successful in “punishing” Assad, and the Syrian dictator starts to fall. Then, will Obama feel obliged to prop him back up? After all, Obama promised this wasn’t about “regime change.” Will Obama’s prestige again be called into question?

Obama’s credibility is on the line now. Will America leave their leader way out front, alone? Is it better to follow him into a complicated civil war, spill Syrian blood and America’s fortune, with no objective but to support the president’s off-teleprompter remarks? The choice for Americans is becoming clearer: Will we support a bad idea, just because the president came up with it, or do we want what is best for America? Is our loyalty to the president and the presidency, or to America and Americans?

Obama has, it seems, finally united Americans. The people are of one voice, for the first time since September 12, 2001; and the President is on the wrong side.


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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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