Dear President Obama:
Over the last several weeks I’ve tried to remain above the political fray with regard to the crisis in Syria.
I could care less about the back-and-forth commentary from pundits regarding the red line comment, or whether or not the decision to go to congress was a good move or a bad move politically.
I am writing as a father of two boys ages 15 and 17, as a proud citizen of the United States, and a staunch supporter of you and your administration.
Why your supporters are hesitant to agree with you that America must act
Let’s face it, after the debacle of the Iraq war, Americans are skeptics when it comes to intelligence reports as evidence for why America must act. The terribly misguided decision to go into Iraq, the fact that the citizens of this country were persuaded with bogus and fabricated evidence to invade that country, and to see that country today – still being torn apart by sectarian violence – created a huge trust deficit and a feeling that regardless of our intentions in Syria, the outcome will not be in our best interest.
When even the most visceral of evidence fails to sway opinion, there is an underlying problem
Yesterday CNN posted horrific video accounts of the chemical attack on Syrian citizens. As I watched people (many of them children) writhing, twitching, frothing from the mouth, the CNN commentator said over and over again that although experts have said the video clearly shows a chemical attack occurred, there is nothing in the video itself that indicates the Assad regime perpetrated the attack.
Before supporting US intervention in a Syrian Civil war, most Americans would need incontrovertible evidence as to which side launched the chemical attack. According to news reports, such evidence is being presented behind closed doors to members of Congress – but the case against the regime (with regard to the chemical attack) has not been made to the citizens of this country. Perhaps you Mr. President will make the case when you address the country on Tuesday night.
Another issue that makes even your most ardent supporters hesitate to back a strike against Syria is the nature of the players involved in this conflict. Ideally such distinctions should not matter when children are being gassed in their sleep – but when we also see numerous video accounts of rebel forces brutally executing regime supporters and soldiers, we cannot help but question the humanity (or rather the lack of it) on both sides of this fight. I understand that America wants to protect the innocent and most vulnerable, but can we do so while not at the same time helping the more extremist elements of the rebel forces?
Regardless of how much the regime and rebel forces hate one another – I cannot help but think they both hate America more. And I have to think that when Assad falls (as all despots do) the forces that rise up in his place will not be friends or allies of this country (regardless of what we decide to do in response to the chemical attacks).
It’s not only about the purpose as you state it, but also how others will interpret our actions
You and Secretary Kerry have been vocal that a strike against the regime is not about taking sides in the ongoing conflict – That any action we take is for the express purpose of punishing the regime and degrading their capability to launch another chemical attack.
You stress that American soldier’s will not set foot on Syrian soil. The argument – that this strike does not constitute a war in the traditional sense – may work on some Americans, but I doubt this distinction makes a difference to Syria and their allies. I suspect that when missiles are raining down on Syria, they will clearly see this as an act of war and I assume they will act accordingly. Are we prepared to deal with this? Are we prepared to show restraint when Syria, or Iran launch counterattacks? Can you promise that America will not get drawn into a deeper conflict when these counterattacks occur? How can anyone make such a promise when we do not know what Syria’s reaction will be?
Right now I would not support a strike against Syria. And although initially I thought the resolution would be passed by congress, I no longer think this is the case. If the resolution does not pass, I hope you do not take it upon yourself to launch these attacks.
Also, I am not convinced that having all of this play out through congressional hearings and debates is a sign of weakness – quite the opposite; I think it shows the strength of our democratic system of government.
If we have incontrovertible evidence that Assad was responsible for the attack, let’s build the case against him, present the evidence to the world court and charge him with war crimes. I think this approach, though restrained in comparison to a cruise missile attack, demonstrates a different kind of strength that would garner international support.
We are a war-weary nation, and let’s face it, the nations of the world are weary of us. I truly believe our standing in the world would rise if we hold off on attacking Syria while perusing aggressively the legal case against Assad.
While pursuing the legal case against Assad, the eyes of the world would be on this despot – and if he dares to use chemical weapons during this time, I believe the international community would not be so hesitant to punish him.