Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Clarence B. Jones Headshot

Obama and Syria: Damned If He Does, Damned If He Doesn't

Posted: Updated:
Print

President Obama presented a compelling case for a military strike against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its own people. He made it clear that it was not fundamentally a question of supporting the rebels or not supporting them. Nor was the principal immediate objective of the proposed limited military action, "regime change."

The president told us that International standards of morality and human decency required action by the United States to punish and deter the use of such chemical weapons. He said that our government had overwhelming conclusive evidence that confirmed that a chemical weapons attack had been conducted by the Assad regime, and not the rebels.

A recent front-page story in the New York Times reported:

While the report's authors did not assign blame for the attack on the outskirts of Damascus, the details it documented included the large size and particular shape of the munitions and the precise direction from which two of them had been fired. Taken together, that information appeared to undercut arguments by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria that rebel forces, who are not known to possess such weapons or the training or ability to use them, had been responsible.

OK, so now the question of President Assad's culpability appears to have been all but officially confirmed by the United Nations.

Initially, the issue confronting the American people was whether President Obama should commence military strikes against Syria, unilaterally as commander-in-chief. Obama announced that he planned to do this, notwithstanding the absence of any constitutionally required threat to "the security of the United States."

The president's subsequent decision to seek congressional "approval" was preempted by Syria's immediate, and unanticipated willingness, with Russia's support, to place its chemical weapons under United Nations inspection and control.

Now the conundrum. There appears to be growing international support for the joint efforts and Geneva Agreement of Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov to implement placing Syria's chemical weapons under UN control and supervision.

Does this now preclude the need for the United States to militarily "punish" Syria for its immoral use of chemical weapons against it own people?

Assuming Syria's complies with the Kerry/Lavrov Geneva "arms deal" and the UN moves to inspect and take control of Syria's chemical weapons, will this be interpreted as a "foreign policy success" for Obama, in the absence of any military strike against Syria? The rebels and their neo-con supporters in the United States favored a military strike against President Assad.

They view U.S. military action against Assad as essential to accelerate the process of "regime change" and his removal. Any agreement that does not facilitate or achieve this under President Obama will most likely be regarded as a failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East under his leadership.

The president and his foreign policy team of advisers must now decide just what is the United States' foreign policy in Syria and throughout the Middle East: fostering the status quo and state sovereignty or regime changes based on OUR concepts of democracy?

A lack of clarity and and vacillation on whether we favor regime change based and/or our preference for "order" and the status quo has resulted in "mixed messages" in Egypt. We, in fact, supported the military coup against a democratically elected government under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.

As I said, it appears that President Obama not only in Syria, but also in Egypt, is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

Closer to home, the recent mass killing at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC has refocused, once again, to the existential gun violence in our nation. Stats indicate that every day 33 three Americans are killed by guns on the streets of country. Dr. Janis Orlowski, head of the Trauma Center at a nearby hospital says "something is evil in our society" that results in injuries she sees every day from guns.

Polls indicate that 90 percent of the American people support background checks as per-requisite for the purchase of any gun. The last time Congress had an opportunity to vote on this issue, it voted down this.

Gun violence in America may say more about who we are as a nation than our support or lack of support for a military strike against Syria.