Monday, September 9, 2013

Obama Lacks the Moral Authority to Lecture U.S. on Syria

Over the weekend I was in my office working when a friend tweeted me a video link to an interview that author Joel Richardson had done with a Syrian pastor about the conflict in Syria and the true makeup of the "freedom fighters" we seem determined to assist in ousting Assad.  The next day, I found myself in a long Twitter conversation with two pro-Obama, pro-Syrian conflict people who apparently wanted me to feel guilty about my complete opposition to getting involved in this conflict.
I left my Twitter exchange more puzzled than ever as to how any rational thinking person can favor U.S. intervention in what is essentially an internal civil war between a very bad man--Assad--and a group of very bad men--the rebels opposing Assad.  What I did take away from our exchange is that because there is no real upside for the United States in getting involved in this conflict, the proponents are using a moral argument--Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people is an action so vile and morally reprehensible that we as a nation must act even though to do so cannot possibly be in our national interests.  I signed out by telling the war proponents that Assad could not do anything within his own borders that, as far as I was concerned, would justify U.S. intervention in this conflict.  One of them responded back that I clearly had no interest in "saving humanity" but she was glad that I was at least honest about it.
So just to clarify for everyone, I want to state my position.  First, my Twitter opponent is quite right. I do not believe that the U.S. has either the power or the responsibility to "save humanity".  Our experience in the Middle East over the last decade should have taught us that we are apparently woefully ignorant of Middle Eastern cultural forces.  I supported the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan was easy--after all we had experienced 09/11 and we needed to respond. I believe in firmly in peace through strength.  But Iraq was also easy.  I believed that Saddam Hussein did have WMD's, but when none were found, and I saw documentaries on the extremely cruelty that Hussein and his family visited on the Iraqi people I still felt righteous.  After all, we had saved them--hadn't we?
Now over 10 years since the start of our conflict in Iraq, we have learned that the Middle East is a much more complicated place than we had originally imagined.  We saw the brutal death of Muammar Gaddafi, but we did not see him replaced with a peace-loving government.  We replaced one Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak  with another, Mohammad Morsi, only to see our pick ousted by his own people who then accused us of supporting the Muslim brotherhood.  Rather than being a hero in Egypt, Obama is now the subject of bawdy Internet videos which accuse him of supporting him of supporting terrorism and Islamic extremism.  Nicely done.

We can see a trend developing in the Middle East that began in the 1970's with the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and his replacement with the Ayatollah.  We have developed a national habit of ousting brutal dictators who don't like us much but don't pose an immediate threat and replacing them with brutal dictators who really, really hate us and do pose an immediate threat.
Now we are told that we need to launch missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria over a chemical weapons attack that the Assad regime denies launching.   We are told that these will be limited strikes that will not lead to "boots on the ground".  But after a decade of war we know how this really works: our strikes can lead to other attacks, against us or our allies, which will force us to respond in kind and soon we are sending men and women to die in another war between two factions we clearly don't understand--neither of whom likes us.  And at the end, if we have been used as Al-Qaeda's Air Force, as Senator Ted Cruz suggests is highly possible, we will have armed and empowered extremely dangerous forces who will be an immediate threat both to us and to Israel.  We will have spent much, lost much and won nothing.
I still believe firmly in "peace through strength" but only when our national interests or the safety of an ally are immediately threatened.  Unless those two factors are at work I believe in "peace through minding our own business."  While I do not believe that it is any way our duty to "save humanity" I absolutely believe that it is our duty to protect American lives and property.  And it is on this point that I assert that President Obama has abdicated any authority to lecture us on moral grounds about an attack on Syria.
Wednesday marks September 11th.  We can never forget the tragedy of 09/11/2001 when we were attacked and thousands of Americans died in the New York City.  We should never forget; we should always remember that the world has dangerous people in it and we have a responsibility to stand up to them when it is in our interest to do so.  
Wednesday also marks another anniversary--the one year anniversary of the brutal death in Benghazi of ambassador Chris Stevens and the three brave Americans who attempted to save his life.  The Obama Administration had a clear moral obligation to protect our ambassador one year ago, but rather than ordering in our troops to stop the torture and murder of Chris Stevens and those brave men who fought to protect our embassy, President Obama chose to do nothing and let them die.  Promises to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice have not been fulfilled.   The attack was blamed on an awful YouTube video--the director of which was jailed--and then nothing.  At the hearings to get to the bottom of what actually happened and to explain the events led to this tragedy, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally shouted in exasperation, "What difference does it make?"  We sent our ambassador and our marines overseas to a dangerous country, failed to protect them, allowed them to die in the most ghastly manner, and our Secretary of State could not understand why she should have to explain herself on these issues.
Now, one year later, President Obama is going to lecture us tomorrow night about the need for military action against the Syrian government.  He will presumably tell us that we have  moral obligation to act against Assad and to stop possible future attacks against the Syrian people.  We are going to be told that we have to act to stop this on humanitarian grounds.  Yet we are being lectured on our moral obligations by a President and an Administration that failed in its clear duty to protect the lives of American citizens overseas or even to bring their killers to justice.  We are being asked by this same Administration to entrust more American lives--more men and women--to go to the Middle East at the President's bidding.  From what we have already seen, we can be fairly certain that if they are captured, they too will be abandoned to be tortured and killed just as were Chris Stevens, Tyrone S. Woods, Sean Smith and Glen A. Doherty.
The President has no moral authority to speak to us on this issue.  Until and unless his Administration is willing to address what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 and bring all those responsible to justice, both in Libya and in D.C., he will never have any  authority to lecture us on the Middle East again.
Watch the Joel Richardson's interview with a Syrian pastor about the Syrian "freedom fighters" and draw your own conclusions.
Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her newest novel, The Chosen, about one small group of Americans' fight to restore the Constitution and end indefinite detentions without trial, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

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