President Obama’s proposed air strike against Syria has turned into a massive political snafu. World opinion is heavily against him, and most Western democracies have decided to keep out of this fight.
The White House has, therefore, left it up to Congress to make the final decision when it reconvenes on Monday. If I were able to cast a vote, it would be in support of the air strike.
For the record, I agree with many of the criticisms leveled at Mr. Obama’s proposal. The evidence from U.S. intelligence sources that Syria supposedly crossed a “red line” and used a chemical weapon (sarin, which is a nerve gas) near Damascus and Aleppo is sketchy at best. There are valid concerns that the president backed himself into a corner and is manufacturing a “phony war” against Syria in order to thump his chest. Meanwhile, fears that any possible replacement to Syrian President Bashar Assad could lead to an even worse political situation for the West are entirely valid.
That being said, Mr. Assad — like his late father, Hafez Assad, before him — has caused so much damage to our world. He has been repeatedly accused of funding and aiding terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Human rights groups have repeatedly stated that the Syrian dictator has tortured and killed political opponents and anti-government activists. Moreover, Syria has promoted hatred against all Western democracies, especially the United States and Israel, since he took power in 2000.
Mr. Assad is a vicious tyrant with hatred oozing out of his blackened heart. He has made Western democracies feel unsafe for many years. As far as I’m concerned, he deserves this air strike — and so much more.
No, the Syrian leader hasn’t directly attacked the United States — yet. His secular positions are also somewhat safer than those of the Islamist fundamentalist groups who are attempting to overthrow him in the country’s civil war. Yet is that enough reason for the United States and the West to let this lunatic off the hook? I don’t think so.
America has had a long and respected history as a defender of democracy and freedom at home and across the world. While it’s no longer popular to say this, the brave men and women who serve in the American military must continue to intervene in situations that threaten these cherished positions.
In a Forbes column on May 11, 2009, British historian and author Paul Johnson correctly wrote that the United States can’t refuse “to continue as world sheriff” because no one is able or willing to take its place. More to the point of “whether the U.S. is willing to carry on with the task of keeping peace in the world, it really has no alternative. The option of retiring within its own sphere of interest or even behind the defense of a highly efficient and comprehensive anti-missile screen is not a real one. It would be against its long-term interests, as well as the American people’s moral nature.”
There’s little doubt that Mr. Obama has presented a very weak case against Syria. This has not been his finest hour as president, and he should be embarrassed by the negative reaction of the international community. Also, let’s be brutally honest: An air strike is a far different strategy than a full-scale ground attack, and will not immediately bring down Mr. Assad and his legions of followers.
At the same time, it will send a message — albeit a puffed-up one — that the United States isn’t going to sit idly by and give up on its historical role as democracy’s greatest defender. Dictators such as Mr. Assad, who have been flexing their muscles with far too much regularity of late, would have to start treading on eggshells with respect to what they say and do, now and in the future. If we ever want our world to be safe from terrorist groups, totalitarian regimes and rogue states, it’s important to remove or diminish the stature of their most vocal supporters — in particular, the Syrian tyrant.
That’s why Western democracies, beyond France’s surprising decision to back Mr. Obama, should support the air strike against Syria despite all the questions surrounding the president’s decision. That’s why the Republican Party, which might be tempted to embarrass the president as opposition parties in the United Kingdom did last week to Prime Minister David Cameron, should take the high road and support Mr. Obama’s air strike.
Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a contributor to The Washington Times.