President Obama made an excellent humanitarian case for intervening in Syria. He spoke about the innocent kids that were killed with sarin gas. The President continues to promote the narrative that the use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians in this civil war warrants a military response not to change the outcome of the civil war but to deter further use of chemical weapons.
Why is a military response necessary? The President attempted to garner support for military action using three different arguments.
The first argument was for humanitarian reasons. After all, who wants to see suffering innocent children dying from poison gas or from any other means? In more than one occasion he asks those listening to view the videos of the human carnage of the gassing.
The second argument was for legal reasons. He stated that 98% of the world (not Syria) was, via its governments, signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the use of sarin gas.
The third argument is precedence. According to the President, absent a military response it will embolden Assad to continue using chemical weapons on his people and Iran will be emboldened to continue its trek towards building a nuclear weapon.
The argument that inaction by the United States will embolden Iran and Syria any more than they are right now is problematic. Should Ronald Reagan be blamed for Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear program given that he ignored/encouraged Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran? No he should not. Countries push the limit not by overt options but by covert actions mostly. This applies to the United States as well.
No country is delusional enough to believe they can go up against the United States. Terrorist groups will remain the flies to be swatted. But America does not need to assert indiscriminate use of its military to assert its power.
The President’s humanitarian argument could be extrapolated to all the human suffering throughout the world including Sudan and many other countries where atrocities occur daily. Atrocities committed with gas are no less painful or abhorrent than atrocities by other means. General Wilkerson dispels this notion.
In his speech the President asked Americans to look at the videos of the suffering children foaming at the mouth from the inhumane gassing by Syria. Will he ask Americans to view the video of the carnage our bombs will inflict on men, women, and children, the broken bones protruding from bloody flesh, the busted up faces and torsos? Bombing is not antiseptic. There was the carnage of 10,000 bodies hidden from the media, buried in mass graves, when the United States bombed Panama to arrest Noriega. Americans did not see this but many around the world did.
While Americans were watching the bombing of Iraq as a video game, much of the rest of the world was watching the blood and guts of the carnage. One does not win friends and sympathy that way.
It is evident that the presidency can make a president insular. When the President was on the outside looking in he was able to clearly see repercussions of these types of actions. He was able to carry the thought process out through several levels of indirection.
Within the presidency, President Obama is surrounded by all the trappings of the American power structure day in and day out. His advisors and the purveyors of intelligence data seem to be stuck in some form of group think in which force and war are the only answers to complex problems. The military industrial complex with its full attributes and peons through all forms of media, advisors on the inside, and lobbyist is the cancer that just lives on in the government.
President Obama would do well to heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s words at this time.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Unlike President Bush whose singular focus was war, the President seems to be willing to give diplomacy a chance. Some believe this was a chess game he was playing from the beginning. Americans will likely never know. It is for this reason that even those that are generally in agreement with this president and his policies must make their voices heard (by him) on issues like this. That becomes the protection from the insular nature of the presidency. But one must remember that just the same ones presence must be there to give him the support and backbone when needed for the middle class centric and socially progressive policies he is fighting for.
Military action at this time serves one purpose. It enriches the military industrial complex and its peons. Pragmatic Americans must continue to oppose it. It is the right thing to do.
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Nick Noble says
I think the President’s speech was exactly the one he intended to give. He does not want to go to war, but his strong posturing over the past few weeks has cased Russia to propose the diplomatic solution he actually wants (a solution that, if Mr. Obama had proposed it, would have been rejected by Syria). Likewise, his putting the onus for the ultimate decision on Congress was a wise political maneuver: a complete win-win-win situation for the President.
Gwendoline Y. Fortune says
Thanks for your analysis. I sat to listen to the address, but found my mind wandering. In the end, I heard nothing different or new. It seems that the man has simply lost all credibility for me. I’ve read several commentaries, and hear nothing significant about the speech. Ho hum