Obama’s strategy

Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval – rather than a sign of weakness of wishy-washy indecision – might instead be the wise move ahead of such a potentially volatile action.

Obama makes remarks on Syria 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Theiler)
Obama makes remarks on Syria 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Theiler)
US President Barack Obama has taken an unfair beating by many on the right of the Israeli political spectrum for his decision to seek congressional approval for a strike on Syria.
They see a connection between the West’s oscillating on Syria – including the British decision to vote down Prime Minister David Cameron’s appeal to approve action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons – and the likelihood that, when push comes to shove, a call to confront Iran militarily to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power might meet a similar fate.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), for instance, noted cynically over the weekend that “in Tehran, they’re opening the champagne and switching into a higher gear in their push for nuclear weapons.”
Meanwhile, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, the Bayit Yehudi chairman, wrote on his Facebook page: “The international stuttering and hesitancy on a Syria strike just proves once more that Israel cannot count on anyone but itself.”
Unnamed state sources told Army Radio, “If Obama hesitates regarding Syria, he will clearly hesitate even more on Iran, an operation expected to be much more complicated.”
But the comparison is not altogether fair, and the West’s reaction on the Syrian front shouldn’t be perceived as a litmus test regarding how we can expect the US and other Western countries to react if and when Iran is on the verge of attaining nuclear weapon capability.
Iran with a nuclear bomb would be a dangerous, destabilizing, game-changing development for the region. A nuclear capability would embolden Tehran to seize control of the Straits of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes. A nuclear Iran would also unleash a nuclear arms race. And possessing a nuclear bomb would radically augment the Islamic Republic’s political influence – and the influence of its terrorist proxies – as well as making it nearly impervious to international pressure. The West has a clear, vested interest in preventing this from happening.
In contrast, the ongoing civil war in Syria is primarily a humanitarian crisis. While there is a desire by the civilized world to stop the bloodshed and reinstate political stability, the West has no real geopolitical interests in ending the Syrian conflict.
Aside from the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, there are no “good guys” among the sides of the conflict. The despotic Assad regime, which has no qualms about using chemical weapons to kill its own citizens, is battling against forces aligned with al-Qaida – the archenemy of the US – and against the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is to Obama’s credit that in his address on Saturday night, he said what was needed to be said: “I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons.”
Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval – rather than a sign of weakness of wishy-washy indecision – might instead be the wise move ahead of such a potentially volatile action.
“I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments.
We do what we say. And we lead with the belief that right makes might – not the other way around,” he said, in the hopes that the US legislators will put political differences aside and back limited action against Syria.
Obviously, many in Israel want to see the speedy end of bloodshed in Syria. Israeli hospitals have treated dozens of wounded Syrians who have managed to gain entrance to the Jewish state. But there are no easy choices when it comes to military intervention.
Any force that could conceivably replace Assad would not lead to more stability in the region, and could bring about even more conflict and unrest. It’s also unclear at this stage who could fill Assad’s shoes. That’s why the West has been – and continues to be – equivocal about getting involved militarily in Syria.
Obama believes that Congress will ultimately support a limited military operation in Syria and the US will attack.
“I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation,” Obama declared Saturday.
A decision by consensus in Congress, rather than a unilateral one by the president, would send that message more forcefully.