It must seem to some that I will blindly support President Obama no matter what he does. I support healthcare reform, financial reform, Keynsian stimulus, the President’s cautious position on Libya and now his caution toward Syria. Perhaps that is what people do as a general rule; we assume that our party leadership is correct and that the other party is always wrong.
I remember many of my Republican friends arguing in support of the Bush tax breaks, continued de-regulation on Wall Street and the invasion of Iraq, while I opposed each of those initiatives. Even if the evidence of recent history has vindicated my positions, I doubt that any of my political foes will have changed their minds. Have politics become, or have they always been, an automatic division of ideas simply to oppose whatever the other party is doing?
This is on my mind today regarding Syria. All of the Republican candidates, along with the conservative pundits and right wing blogosphere, are denouncing President Obama’s diplomatic approach to the Syrian government’s brutal response to their humanitarian uprising. The Republicans are comparing Syria to Libya where President Obama also used caution before dealing with Libya’s military aggression toward protestors.
“What happened in Libya was we mobilized the international community, had a Security Council mandate, had the full cooperation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time,” said President Obama. “Syria,” he added, “is a much more complicated situation.”
He is considering, as Leon Panetta articulated, “What is the strategy? What is the mission? What are the risks?” Are Republicans crying for the Bush Cowboy Doctrine because they sincerely believe differently or is it simply their strategy to oppose any Democrat in Charge?
Trust me, the humanitarian cause of freedom from the Syrian uprising is meaningful and urgent, just as it was in Libya and Egypt, but if America is to be the policeman of human rights around the world, then we must do so only with measured response after we weigh the many risks involved that come with military intervention. Russia who has a military base in Syria has denounced intervention and along with China they have blocked UN action on Syria. Their actions prompted a particularly strong reaction from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“It’s quite distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using their veto while people are being murdered — women, children, brave young men — houses are being destroyed,” she said. “It is just despicable and I ask whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people.”
Clearly there are Democrats who are anxious to directly oppose Syrian President Assad’s bloody aggression against the Syrian people, and Obama’s strategy is to first use sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power.
It may be that we all (Democrats and Republicans) share a common goal, which is to see a dictator like Assad, with a long history of human rights violations, topple, and for the continued movement of people marching toward the laws of freedom, but in a complex matrix of foreign policy and national sovereignty, however, it is responsible leadership that asks, “How is that best achieved?”
We went into Iraq without a strategy and a clear mission and it took 8 years, nearly 4500 American soldiers lives, 100,000 Iraqi lives, tens of thousands of wounded soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars from the capture of Saddam Hussein to the end of our combat operations. We destroyed the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 by taking immediate military action after 9/11 but without a government in its place they were back 5 years later.
A mission, a strategy and weighing the risks; those are what I ask of a President in times of conflict and that is what we have. I’m not sure why anyone would disagree…unless it’s all about politics and nothing else.