I’ve had my eye on Syria for a quite a while. Two years ago, President Obama called for the leader of Syria, President Assad, to step down. One year ago, President Obama stated if great amounts of chemical weapons were spotted being moved or used that would be a red line in the sand. On August 21, 2013, never mind back in March, chemical weapons, possibly sarin, were used where the rebels against Syrian’s government were holding ground, killing an estimated 1,400 civilians, 400 of which are reputed to be children. Suddenly, the world is aghast – videos shown over and over again of bodies, injured people streaming in for assistance, doctors opining on what the chemical was, then experts arguing whether the symptoms truly matched the use of sarin. The doubt was because the responders, without protection – not even face masks or gloves, appeared to be able to safely touch the injured and the dead, carefully wrapped in sheets or simply laid out line upon line, and I presume by now buried since the tradition is before next sundown or 24 hours between death and burial.
The international community was outraged – do something! And, all eyes turned to President Obama because he had made clear it would be a red line and that Assad better not go there. …so, why would Assad go there? By all accounts, he was winning the civil war on 8/21. The rebels were losing ground, screaming for U.S. assistance, which had been offered, but not delivered as yet, apparently. Reports that terrorist groups and sponsors were all flocking to Syria for one side or the other and that the Free Syrian Army (Rebels) had been overrun with Al Qaeda affiliated groups, despite Senator McCain’s assurance that these were good guys. There are no good guys in Syria. There are hapless civilians and a horrible, ugly civil war that has cost over 100,000 dead in less than two years, millions of refugees surging into neighboring countries, especially Jordan. Still and all, why would Assad authorize his brother, who was placed in charge of accounting for the chemical weapons, to use them on a nearby town to Damascus? Perhaps the minds of dictators are too complex to follow. Nonetheless, he’s apparently done this perhaps as much as 11 times before. On the other hand, we know for a fact that Al Qaeda has been working on attaining chemical weapons, right down to making ’em, since their inception.
Over the last week, President Obama has mixed messages from action is imminent to we are considering best action(s) to take to it’s likely to be a two to three day operation – not enough to tilt the balance of the civil war, but to chastise Assad and perhaps cripple some aspect of his infrastructure, perhaps his air defense systems. It was thought a sure thing that this action would take place Saturday or Sunday, at the latest. Suddenly, Friday night, after a 45 minute walk with his Chief of Staff, it was announced he would send a request to Congress to authorize use of force – even though he was not required to, nor would he necessarily forgo action if Congress voted no. Keeping his options open. However, that could also set up a Constitutional crisis. The President is not required to go to Congress to take action he deems necessary for our national security, but he does have to account for it before Congress within 90 days. If Congress votes no on his resolution and the President orders a strike, would that put our military in an indefensible position of either obeying their Commander in Chief or their sworn oath to the Constitution, not the President of the United States?
Meantime, Congress won’t return until September 9, 2013 and it was not considered urgent enough to call them back, but Senate and House Committees suddenly convened to have testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and intelligence and military personnel. And today, on his way to Russia to attend the G-20 Summit, he stopped off in Stockholm and said he didn’t declare a red line, the world and the Congress declared a red line through various treaties (Syria didn’t sign the treaty). Oh, and by the way, the United Nations Security Council has not authorized any use of force and Russia, in particular, states that without true proof, any action against Syria would be considered aggression. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has stated it would be considered illegal. The United Kingdom called their Parliament for a vote and they turned down the use of force against Assad by a narrow vote, but a vote nonetheless. However, France is pushing for action, and apparently, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, Arab countries are willing to finance our operation…
Over the weekend, I read lots and listened to various discussions each pushing yes or no for intervention into Syria. One of the best I heard was Bryan Suits’ discussion of what constitutes chemical weapons and their use, as well as possible retaliation against Syria.
I find it curious that the President made an announcement a year ago regarding a red line, and we didn’t have plans in place ready to go to lay out for the President when that line was crossed. Really? That is the military’s job. ‘Course, maybe it was just to stall for time. So, Congress returns at 2:00 p.m. on September 9 – just in time for the 12th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 when we were attacked. And, a year since Benghazi and the Libya operation that still remains unanswered and unaccounted for four murders of a U.S. Ambassador, his aide, and two former SEALS.