At the end of August, President Obama decided that the US should take military action against Syria as a response to its use of chemical weapons, but that the decision will ultimately be left up to Congress. Upon their return to Washington, members of Congress will debate and eventually vote on military action in Syria. Having discussed Syria a number of times on The David Pakman Show and as a guest on other programs, a number of themes and centers of interest seem to recur.
On President Obama's choice to ultimately leave the decision on military action to Congress, I've received divided emails, many critical of this decision, while others praise it. A number of these emails painted President Obama as "weak' by virtue of allowing others to make the decision. Those in favor of the President's deferral to Congress are happy that, unlike with President George W. Bush's decision to enter Iraq, members of Congress will actually be heard. Both sides are too absolutist in their points of view.
The reality is that President Obama did not simply say to Congress, "this is your call." President Obama stated clearly that his decision is to go into Syria, but he will leave it to Congress to either approve or reject it. Also unrealistic is the revisionist history that argues President Bush was completely alone in making his decision. While it is true that President Bush did officially make the call without consulting Congress, members of Congress who voted in favor of allowing the President to directly decide when to start military action in other countries knew that, pragmatically speaking, they were voting to allow President Bush to start that particular war. Ultimately, the decision, like many military decisions, will be analyzed in terms of its causes and its end-results, which leads us to the next important area of discussion.
In his statement on the last day of August, President Obama cited the August 21st chemical weapon attack in Syria that killed more than 1,400 people near the capital city of Damascus, according to White House estimates, as the primary justification for entering Syria. When a humanitarian positioning is used to justify military action, our interest should be piqued and we should know that further analysis is necessary. Given the uncontested fact that countless humanitarian crises, including genocides, have and continue to take place without American military intervention, reasons beyond a benevolent and compassionate impetus must exist when the American military mobilizes in situations such as those in Syria.
In Iraq, the hidden motivations to be explored include oil, unfinished business from President George H. W. Bush, a desire to feed the military-industrial complex, and many others. The same questions must be asked now, rather than later, with regard to ulterior motives in Syria.
Moving to part two of the evaluation that will eventually happen regarding action or inaction in Syria, the eventual outcome, exit strategy, and goals must be considered. Assuming for the moment that US military involvement does happen and successfully removes Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad from power, the end result is by no means a foregone conclusion, and many of the options aren't particularly positive.
Syrian rebel groups are not united -- rather, they are significantly splintered. Further, there are significant Sunni Islamist extremist elements exerting power and influence. Assuming that the US does have the capability to topple the Assad regime -- something about which there is no certainty -- it certainly does not have the ability and precision to truly control who comes to power next, including the real possibility of Sunni Islamist extremist control. We've seen in Iraq how ethnic and sectarian splits can be violent and enduring, and we've seen in Egypt and other countries how the day-to-day lives of large portions of a country's population can be largely unimproved after the toppling of unquestionably violent and horrific regimes.
A final note about exit strategy: There will no doubt be many elected officials, more Republicans than Democrats, who will strongly and loudly demand a detailed and extensive exit strategy before they favor military action. There's nothing wrong or illogical about this. It makes perfect sense, particularly given the complex and largely unpredictable scenario I outlined above. I call your attention to it is because when you hear those demands, remember to find out whether that individual was demanding the same back in 2003, when Congress mostly voted to give President George W. Bush the authority to take the US to war without much regard for an exit strategy, or often with delusional and obviously incredible ideas about how wonderful things would be just months after we arrive. There's no shortage of hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to American politics and foreign policy.
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at http://www.davidpakman.com.