The Editorial Board for the Times squishily makes its case that Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack H. Obama should conduct war on Syria, with or without the blessing of the United Nations, forgetting that getting the blessing of the United States Congress might be nice
There is little doubt now that President Obama is planning some kind of military response to what the administration says without equivocation was a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government that killed hundreds of civilians. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry began forcefully making the case for action.
Speaking at the State Department, Mr. Kerry said the attack “defies any code of morality” and should “shock the conscience of the world.” He said this “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders” was a “moral obscenity,” “inexcusable,” and “undeniable,” despite efforts by President Bashar al-Assad and his enablers in Russia to blame rebel forces.
“Make no mistake,” Mr. Kerry added, “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.” Administration officials said Mr. Obama had still not made a firm decision on how to react, but it would be highly unlikely — if not irresponsible — for him to authorize Mr. Kerry to speak in such sweeping terms and then do nothing.
Here’s the really important part
This time the use of chemicals was more brazen and the casualties were much greater, suggesting that Mr. Assad did not take Mr. Obama seriously. Presidents should not make a habit of drawing red lines in public, but if they do, they had best follow through. Many countries (including Iran, which Mr. Obama has often said won’t be permitted to have a nuclear weapon) will be watching.
That’s their tacit approval for using the US military to attack Syria. We can all be certain that the White House reads the Times, and will see that as approval. But, just to hedge their bets, the Times does expect him to exhaust all diplomatic efforts
Using chemical arms is considered a war crime and banned under international treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Geneva Protocol and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Even so, if he decides to use military force, Mr. Obama will have to show that he has exhausted diplomatic options and present a defensible legal justification, and that is not a simple matter. Ideally, the United States would muster a United Nations Security Council resolution to authorize military action. But Russia and China, which have veto power, have long protected Mr. Assad from punishment there and show no inclination to change. It is hard to believe that they would defend his use of chemical weapons, but there is no guarantee that they would not.
Hey, remember when President Bush was able to push the UN for Resolution 1441, which authorized military force against Iraq, as well as received Congressional approval? He gave Saddam plenty of time to comply. Yet liberals had a problem with this. Weird.
A political agreement is still the best solution to this deadly conflict, and every effort must be made to find one. President Obama has resisted demands that he intervene militarily and in force. Though Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons surely requires a response of some kind, the arguments against deep American involvement remain as compelling as ever.
And now the Times has taken both sides of the argument. The problem here is not any sort of military strike, it’s what comes afterwards. I won’t dispute that the Bush admin. made a mess of Iraq after the initial military action, and it took a lot to turn that around. Obama’s Big Libyan Adventure hasn’t exactly turned out well, with the eastern part of the country rife with hard-core Islamists. If Obama strikes Syria, he better have a good plan for what comes after.