When I watched Fox News the other night one of the commentators mentioned Ronald Reagan and his famous saying when dealing with the Soviets “Trust but Verify”. In other words give them the benefit of the doubt to see if they keep their word, but make sure there is criteria in place to measure the actual result. That is what Ronald Reagan did best. That is what the Obama administration is failing at.
Leaders who would consider involving the United States in Syria’s civil war against the will of the American people should weigh their decision against Ronald Reagan’s four principles for “the application of military force abroad.” Reagan established these principles after nearly 300 American and French troops were killed in an attack on their barracks in Beirut in 1983. He listed them in his autobiography:
1. The United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.
2. If the decision is made to commit our forces to combat abroad, it must be done with the clear intent and support needed to win. It should not be a halfway or tentative commitment, and there must be clearly defined and realistic objectives.
3. Before we commit our troops to combat, there must be reasonable assurance that the cause we are fighting for and the actions we take will have the support of the American people and Congress. (We all felt that the Vietnam War had turned into such a tragedy because military action had been undertaken without sufficient assurances that the American people were behind it.)
4. Even after all these other combat tests are met, our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available. (Ronald Reagan: An American Life, 466)
Measure the Obama administration’s muddled case for war in Syria against these principles.
It is hard to imagine a more befuddled Defense Department or State Department, but here you have it. Secretary Kerry was clearly chomping at the bit when he delivered his first speech on Syria and the need for a strike. Not only did he say it was imperative that it happen quickly, he also said that it had to be a firm strike if it was going to mean anything and it needed to be delivered in a timely manner to be successful. When you listened to Secretary Kerry you thought we were going to strike on the weekend. Everyone was talking about the “birds” flying by Saturday or Sunday. Clearly the American people felt that the missiles would be flying even if “We the People” did not think they should.
When the president spoke in the Rose Garden, he completely disagreed with the tone and import of Kerry’s speech. The president downplayed the need for a timely strike and the size of it. He clearly was against removing Assad from office. He went so far to say that he did not draw the “Red Line”, the world did. He pledged not to put American boots on the ground. He insisted that Assad’s government did use Chemical weapons and termed it a massacre of his own people, for effect. Knowing that the vast majority of Americans felt that the president’s image was not a reason to risk a war in the Middle East, Obama stressed that it would be a limited strike.
Most knew that Obama had a contempt for Congress. He proved many times that he would use his executive powers to get what he wanted. So on Friday evening the country was bracing itself for a possible strike over the weekend. Then as if there was an epiphany, he decided to submit a request to Congress asking them to approve the use of military force in Syria. He made it clear that he didn’t think he needed to do it, but he also said that it was not an exercise either, implying he would listen to the will of the people. However, he did not think it was serious enough to call Congress back from vacation.
While the administration was hemming and hawing, the UN sent its teams in to find out if Chemical Weapons were used. It is not clear whether President Assad knew they were being used. When the UN inspectors finally give their report it will not shed any light on who ordered the use of the weapons if they were used.
Many in the country feel that the Obama administration is stumbling blindly and might thrust us into a World War. The latest words from John Kerry said that the strike was going to be minimal in nature, very small. Everyone in this White House and the State Department are falling all over themselves trying to put lipstick on this pig. Putting Susan Rice out again and having her say that the use of Chemical Weapons was clearly the decision of the Assad Government, sounded very hollow. Remember when she swore it was the internet video that sparked the massacre in Benghazi. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
The icing on the cake came when Secretary Kerry said that if Assad would turn over all his chemical weapons to the United Nations we would not attack him, but in an off hand remark he said, “he is not going to do that.” Someone on the other side was listening. Less than an hour later Vladimir Putin’s government said that they would ask Assad to hand over his weapons. What started out as an off hand remark ended up as a Russian proposal. We can only hope that Vladimir Putin is not playing on the naivete of President Obama, and Putin can convince Assad to turn his weapons over to them. At least then Jay Carney can say that the very threat of sending our missiles into Damascus caused Assad to give up the weapons, and president Obama will be able to save face. We can only pray.
Photo Credit: Standard Compliant