No matter how military strikes against Syria are "packaged" for domestic consumption, they are likely to be construed by a majority of people in Arab and Islamic countries as the initiation of another "war" in the Middle East by the United States.
U.S. drones in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan also do not constitute "boots on the ground." Punishing Syria for the use of chemical weapons against its own people, based on U.S. intelligence information, during the course of the country's civil war, by strategic bombing by the United States is an act of war against Syria. Understandably, President Obama seeks congressional authorization, while insisting he already has presidential authority to punish Syria without the need for prior congressional approval.
The military action contemplated by the president we are told is because the Assad regime has crossed a "red line" that the president announced publicly several months ago. This red line consists of the "proven use" of chemical weapons by Syrian President Assad against the Syrian people.
Each cruise missile launched against Syria in execution of President Obama's orders cost $1.5 million dollars. This estimated cost is exclusive of the operating costs of moving US naval ships and personnel off the coast of Syria. Are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Arab Gulf States opposed to the Assad regime prepared to proportionately underwrite the cost of our strategic bombing of Syria? There other other urgent domestic uses for the money we will have to spend to conduct this military action against Syria.
The military intervention by President Obama in the Syrian civil war may be the most serious and dangerous foreign policy initiative of his presidency. It unavoidably involves unforeseeable risks of provoking a domino backlash against the United States equal or greater than the threat of al Qaeda in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Our attack against Syria is likely to further inflame anti-U.S. sentiment in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, the Palestinian territories and several Islamic countries throughout the world.
There is something deeply unsettling when President Obama, elected as an anti-Iraq war candidate, now a Nobel Peace Prize recipient on the issue of Syria seems to have morphed into foreign policy "neocon" reminiscent of the presidency of George W. Bush.
In accepting his Nobel Peace Prize President Obama said:
"(W)e will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years -- 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.'
As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower."
Some European and Middle East critics of President Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East say that the red line he drew about Assad's use of chemical weapons is more "provocative" than any red line he was willing to draw against Israeli expansion of additional settlements in disputed Palestinian territory, the subject of, on again, off again negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
To us in the United States and Israel this is more than likely to be regarded as obscene "moral equivalent" -- continued settlements on Palestinian land occupied by Israel and the use of chemical weapons by Assad in the Syrian civil war.
However, a significant number of people in the Middle East, critical of U.S. policy in resolving the Israel Palestinian dispute, are also likely to dismiss the "no moral equivalent" argument, as part of their criticism of U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war.
For those of us who have supported the Obama presidency, not without constructive criticism when we thought appropriate, we often remember the saying of our elders that "you are known by the company you keep."
Isn't it amazing that so many Republican members of the House who have repeatedly voted to repeal "Obamacare," and some Republican senators critical of the president's alleged actions and inactions in protecting the U.S. Embassy in Libya and his alleged misuse of the IRS, now appear to be poised to provide him with the Congressional authorization he seeks for his "no boots on the ground" military intervention in Syria?
Are Democratic members of Congress also ready to provide President Obama with the Congressional "authorization" he seeks for military strikes against Syria?
Is this what President Obama would like for historians to most remember about the second term of his presidency?