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What Should Obama Do About Syria?


IN ALL the ramped up rhetoric over Syria, the question is not just what should Obama do about it, but also how much support does he have in the American public to launch military action?

Eli Lake has a post up today that will give you pause.

A recent New York Times/CBS poll presents real issues for Obama on Syria, but also the neoconservatives in the Republican Party who simply won’t take a hint.

While the public does not support direct military action in those two countries right now, a broad 70 percent majority favors the use of remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, to carry out bombing attacks against terrorism suspects in foreign countries.

Sixty-two percent of the public say the United States has no responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and antigovernment groups, while just one-quarter disagree. Likewise, 56 percent say North Korea is a threat that can be contained for now without military action, just 15 percent say the situation requires immediate American action and 21 percent say the North is not a threat at all.

Interesting statistics on drone use, isn’t it.

What’s really alarming about the NYTimes/CBS poll is this headline: Poll Shows Isolationist Streak in Americans.

This is traditional media at its worst.

The New York Times cannot distinguish between isolationism and intelligent anti-inverventionism. Looking at the Bush administration’s ineptitude at utilizing American military power, is it any wonder the American public wants to stay well away from getting involved?

AtlanticWire pulls some analysis from the polling:

In an interesting wrinkle, however, the poll also asked how closely the respondents were following the news. Sixty percent said they aren’t following it closely at all. Yet among the measly 10 percent who say they are following the news “closely,” 47 percent agree that the U.S. has a responsibility to act. If you’re actually aware of the ongoing atrocities, chances are more likely (though still not great) that you think America needs to do something. (In a Pew Research poll released yesterday, 45 percent of those polled said they favored U.S. military action if proof of chemical weapons use is found, but none of those survey takers were really paying attention either.)

Dissecting it on a clear and present danger path, North Korea is no threat to the United States. As for Syria, the world community cannot allow Bashar Assad to commit additional war crimes with impunity by poisoning the population through chemical weapons.

Obama’s Libya model has to be percolating in his mind.

Besieged on all fronts, lame Duck being lobbed, President Obama has lost on gun background checks, there are whispers about 2014 and Obamacare abandonment by Democrats, with Karl Rove smacking his lips at Republicans taking the Senate.

A foreign policy win like taking out the Assad regime is just what the political doctor might order.

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9 Responses to What Should Obama Do About Syria?

  1. Ramsgate May 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Funny, but IMHO the answer to that question is: He should have already known what his response should be. And done it.

    In other words, all the angles and consequences mentioned in your post should have be thought out, weighed and contemplated and debated among his staff long before any pronouncements or tough guy threats about red lines were made to satisfy Netanyahu, Graham and McCain. Never make a threat unless you intend to carry it out.

    Strong leaders have the foresight to plan all the way to the end. The ending is everything. The are usually ahead of the curve. They plan all the way taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles and twists of fortune that might reverse their hard work. What if this, or that happens?

    By planning to the end they are not overwhelmed by circumstances and they know when to stop. Or if to begin. They are masters of their own fortunes. And so to this extent, when a leader draws a line, it’s because he means what he says. And people know it. Once the so called red line is crossed, action/retaliation should seem natural and executed with ease. Effortlessly.

    Conversely, doubt and hesitation seems to infect all Obama’s actions. Therefore they seem to affect the execution, which is why I believe the Republicans are constantly at his throat. Timidity is dangerous. Come to think of it, why hasn’t he yet nominated Susan Rice as his Nat Security Council? Is it being to rude to John & Lindsay? Maybe he’ll do it the week before he leaves office.

    • Taylor Marsh May 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

      Careful, there, Ramsgate, you’re beginning to sound like John McCain. ;-)

      I think that is categorically wrong, even taking it beyond Obama. A leader can anticipate, but too many times leaders have preconceived actions and don’t at all weigh things as they develop on the ground, which can change quickly.

      It’s a very precarious situation in Syria.

      I hope everyone hesitates and waits until they are absolutely certain.

      The middle east is nowhere to unveil canned responses conceived before the facts were in.

      John F. Kennedy took it one step at a time with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The difference is, and where you are correct, Kennedy didn’t hesitate once the time had arrived.

      • Ramsgate May 2, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

        McCain. John McCain!!! Oh Lordy Nooooooooo. :-)

        Ah Taylor, I think that you think that I have a preconceived solution or option. Absolutely not. :-)

        Let me be clearer about what I’m saying: Once they have “planned to the end” as I suggested, they may find that the most prudent course of action may be that their hands are tied and that there is nothing or very little they could do. If that is what they determined then he’d have kept his mouth shut and he would not go in front of the public (the world) and lead people to believe that he was going to use force in some way against Syria.

        Or, he has heaps of options at the ready, in his arsenal. So where are they?

        I’m telling you he has no idea what to do because he didn’t think about it. He always does this. Charges up the hill as if he’s some tough guy (Susan Rice) then comes scampering back down once he faces strong opposition or his bluff is called. The whole world knows him. I’m shocked he still has credibility in some quarters. I’ve yet to see him take a firm stand on anything.

        So again, had he “planned to the end” after he made his pathetic threat he would have foreseen the exact position we are in now and he’d have some type of response for that, so that he does not appear so timid and tentative. Always.

  2. secularhumanizinevoluter May 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    He should let the Syrian people decide their own future.

  3. PeggySue May 2, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    The whole situation is a disaster but I have to say this time out I favor caution. I hope to God Obama is not acting merely in response to the neocons, who should never be allowed to direct anything, ever again. But this is a decision that may not have any good outcomes. I heard the head of NATO say we can’t rule out that the rebels themselves initiated the limited chemical usage in order to move the US into action.

    There just don’t seem to be any good guys in this struggle. Meanwhile the civilians are caught in the bloody middle. As always.

    The drone stats are frigging unbelievable. So, it’s okay that we drop bombs in other countries on people’s heads, the guilty and innocent alike. Until someone does it to us. Then I suspect attitudes will change, quickly. Plus we’re making life-long enemies with these on-going civilian casualties. Every wedding party, every child or family killed by mistake is an injustice that won’t be forgotten. We wouldn’t forget or be placated with ‘sorry’ and here’s some cash to bury your dead. Talk about short-sighted!

  4. newdealdem1 May 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    Very interesting conversations in this thread. I have to say I’m befuddled and conflicted by what is going on in Syria which Taylor and Peggy Sue captured in their commentary.

    I don’t know what we should do (and, I feel awful and almost have to turn away when I see a report about the horror story that is Syria especially about the killing of children) but one thing I do know is that I and most of the American public has no appetite to intervene militarily in Syria. We are all sick up to our necks fighting wars, wasting our nation’s young men and women treasure and so much money spent (and unpaid for) in Iraq especially for no good reason whilst those dollars could have been spent here at home where it was and is needed to create jobs and which has only magnified our dips into recession. But, I still cannot stand to see the butchery in Syria on both sides. And, both sides seem culpable albeit Assad is the leader and imho and from everything I’ve read he was the one who started the genocide (and I don’t know how we cannot call it that).

    But, I have no desire to intervene (at least not on our own).

    Also, the drone situation. Sigh.

    “The drone stats are frigging unbelievable. So, it’s okay that we drop bombs in other countries on people’s heads, the guilty and innocent alike. Until someone does it to us. Then I suspect attitudes will change, quickly. Plus we’re making life-long enemies with these on-going civilian casualties. Every wedding party, every child or family killed by mistake is an injustice that won’t be forgotten. We wouldn’t forget or be placated with ‘sorry’ and here’s some cash to bury your dead. Talk about short-sighted!” Peggy Sue

    Strongly second this. I was watching a program (I don’t remember if it was on National Geographic or on PBS) about the future of using robots as a subsidiary military force in the US. And, it seems this science is not that far away from being a reality. Whilst it sounds great on paper as it will save many human lives on our side inasmuch as our military force will not be used in combat, never mind how it will devastate countries we deem our enemy.

    And, as you said about drones, what happens when these mechanical killing machines come on our shores? Will it change our attitude towards these mindless, unfeeling warriors or will be just reinforce and increase our support for this form of warfare?

    What bothers me about these mechanical warriors is because they have no feelings and we will have no feelings towards them when “killed”. There will be no body bags coming back home or weeping families accepting their remains. We will all be even more disconnected from the horrors of war than we are now (given that there is no draft and most of us don’t have family or friends or acquaintances fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan).

    It’s a James Cameron film come to pass in our lives if these robot warriors not only supplement our human fighting force but eventually replace the human ones.

    At the least, no matter how much we may protest this or that war, we still have a human reaction to our brothers and sisters who have sacrificed either their lives, their limbs, their minds to the fight and most of us still “feel” something about them for their sacrifices which will be lost when the robot warriors take their place and killing will be done with stainless steel efficiency. If we don’t deal with what we are about to do with the inception of these killer drones, we will never go back to what and who we were once upon a time. And, if we don’t deal with this and make a decision to put a stop (or not) to this technology “advance” in warfare, I hope I and my loved ones are not around to see the results.

  5. mjsmith May 3, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    President Obama should.reash out to Russia and seek a diplomatic solution. I say this for a few reasons. Russia has doubled down on its support for Assad. Putin has shown that he is willing to go to greater lenghths to support Assad that the United states is willing to go to topple him. Carving Syria up along some sort of religious or cultural lines, in my opinion based on historical references, is not a good idea. Russia has strategic and economic interests in Syria, especially the port in Tartus. Russia also shares the same interest with the USA in Syria in not wanting the al quaeda backed militants to take over the country.

    President Obama should avoid a prolonged conflict. This will only benefit thhe terrorists that are taking advantage of the crisis.

    If having the USA involved militarily and if you feel that only an armed military solution that must remove Assad is the only option acceptable, do it right away. Do not procastinate any longer, if the US is going to send troops or provide some sort of military assistance to topple Assad, the sooner the better.

    Stop having international conferences on post-Assad Syria. Have international conferences focusing on what is going on in Syria today and pay close attention to the current situation in Syria.

    Do whatever it takes now, to remove al quaeda from the situation. Waiting for the Syrian government to collapse before dealing with al nusra is a bad idea. The sooner the al quaeda issue in Syria is dealt with effectively the better.

    If having Assad in power is unacceptable, and it is necessary to supprot the efforts against the Syrian government, have an ideal end-game in place. Have a model of what you feel Syria should be.

    Recognize the strong support of the people of Syria for Assad. Yes there is a strong resistance against him, there is also strong support for him. The foriegners that are in Syria right now are not there for the good interests of the Syrian people, they are there to serve their own interests. The wahabi pipleline from Quatar and Saudi Arabia and the material and people also pouring into Syria from Jordan and Turkey, is not enough to topple Assad.

    “The Middle East is one of the hardest-hearted areas in the world. It has always been fought over, and peace has only reigned when a major power has established firm influence and shown that it will maintain its will. Your friends must be supported with every vigour and if necessary they must be avenged. Force, or perhaps force and bribery, are the only things that will be respected. It is very sad, but we had all better recognize it. At present our friendship is not valued, and our enmity is not feared.” – Winston Churchill

    • secularhumanizinevoluter May 5, 2013 at 6:05 am #

      This screed is to long to repond to non reality and racistly arrogant point by point I will simply say this….if anyone ever wondered why America and Americans are hated around the world but in the Middle east in particular….here is your text book. “have an ideal end-game in place” indeed.

  6. Ramsgate May 3, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    What is a ‘red line” worth?

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong