Leadership is as much about what not to do as it is about taking action.
Yet like a nation with some weird form of missile-launching bomb-dropping Tourette's Syndrome, repeatedly and without due process we jump into the crises and wars of other countries.
The drums are beating again: Senator McCain is crying for the Syrian president's head; the world economic markets are wobbling drunkenly; and the White House is signaling some type of imminent action. It's worse than deja vu -- it's as if we're deliberately TRYING to repeat our past mistakes and hoping for different results. Insanity.
So this time, as the president and perhaps Congress consider hitting the red button, they must exercise leadership -- have the courage NOT to act with aggression, as they analyze and define thoroughly any potential win, lose, or draw of military intervention in Syria. That's not only "Leadership 101," but also the right way to organize for a specific outcome.
Unlike past conflicts, were our leaders to do the full analysis before taking action in Syria, they'd discover drones, missiles, bombs or boots on the ground are no-win, all-lose propositions.
U.S. leadership in Syria means working with the international community to gather compelling evidence about the chemical weapons attack, and then to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime against humanity to justice, in an international court. That's American leadership at its best -- making sure that justice is done.
Leaders who analyze clearly the potential standards for win, lose, or draw make better decisions, focus on what's best for the greater good, then combine and use assets and resources wisely. The alternative is to make matters worse on foreign soil, as seems to be our habit, much as a losing gambler throws good money after bad, hoping this time will be different.
Until up, down, and sideways are delineated for any potential intervention in Syria, we'd be jumping in to a bad fight one more time, and for the same wrong reasons. Syria is one of the places we are most likely to help our own opponents no matter what we do.
If I were coaching here, I'd ask questions: What does the world need and want justice at its best to be for that Syrian chemical attack? What does it look like if justice is ignored? What does a further injustice look like? The U.S. can be a leader among nations in defining these three boundaries in the world community. We are all then more likely to do the right thing at the right time.
I respectfully challenge this administration to do just that: Ask itself tougher questions about measurable outcomes in any potential action in Syria -- win, lose, and draw -- and, for extra credit, build a coalition of nations organized around the principles of justice at its best, rather than instigate any greater injustice of more killing.