By Jill Chapin
September 10, 2013
To much of the world, it appears that our president is indecisive, unsure of his options, and unable to amass consensus on how to proceed on the issue of Syria. He doesn’t seem to have addressed the unintended consequences of any course of action. Some would argue that he appears woefully incompetent, too vacillating to demonstrate strength and resolve. Although I can appreciate those who agree with all of the above, an appropriate response might nevertheless be “So what?” This is an international mess and anyone who would claim to see things clearly and linearly and act upon those claims would be both ill-informed and reckless.
Thankfully, our president is not running for office again, and so politics are largely off the table. Very much on the table though is his legacy. It would be logical, therefore, to assume that he would not want to risk tarnishing it by either going to war without congressional approval or getting it and embarking on yet another national quagmire that would sink his hopes of history regarding him kindly. I would imagine that he is actually among the large majority of Americans who do not want to see military involvement in Syria.
But just as we have learned how much our government knows about us, it is also likely that they have far more knowledge about Syria than we are fed by the media. Although this is only conjecture, I have a few scenarios that could at least offer a more nuanced look at what might be driving President Obama’s seemingly awkward hesitations and lurches that leave us with the impression that he is winging it.
First, I recently saw a small article buried in the paper reporting that we have just launched a new sophisticated spy satellite. What if it is capable of tracking in real time the chemical weapons undoubtedly moving around Syria? Could this be why Obama says it doesn’t matter if we strike tomorrow or next month?
Second, at the end of the G-20 summit in Europe last week, Obama and Putin sat down for a private conversation. Both emerged saying it was frank and though they disagreed, they each listened to the other’s point of view. But what if more transpired at that meeting than we were told? What if it was Obama’s suggestion to Putin that he could defuse the crisis by calling on Syria to turn over their chemical weapons to a third party? Putin would simultaneously appear diplomatic without bowing to American pressure to support military intervention, and his ego would be stroked by having him appear to be the voice of reason and compromise.
Ronald Reagan once said it is remarkable how much more could be accomplished if no one cared who got the credit What if Obama is secretly behind this magnanimous Russian gesture to be the world’s mediator?
None of the above may be true. But the point is that we need to think about things that are undoubtedly going on behind closed doors. These possibilities may be wrong but maybe others can envision something else that could be plausible. Whatever we think, we should at least assume that watching the news is not going to make us more informed about what is really happening.
Looks can be deceiving. This is a painfully complex situation no matter who would be in office. And our president is painfully aware of our recent cowboy diplomacy that catapulted us into two reckless, worthless wars that decimated us financially and all but destroyed our credibility.
But he has to weigh that against our credibility of being the voice insisting that someone has to do what they can to rid the world of chemical weapons. People dying in war is horrendous enough; to have large swaths of innocent people hideously tortured before their final breath should be a red line in the sand for all of us.
Because it may not be science fiction to believe that one day a rogue group might inflict the horror of children writhing in our own streets.