The Fuzzy Facts and Obama’s Line In the Sand
by John L. Falcone III
In the poker game of international politics, someone in Syria is calling President Obama’s bluff.
The big question is exactly who is calling for the President to show his hand.
Syria’s current civil war dates back to 2011, and it is a complicated affair, but it basically boils down to what most civil wars boil down to: on one side you have the existing government and military led by President Bashar al-Assad and on the other side you have a newly formed Free Syrian Army (FSA) which wants to bring down the Assad regime. In the middle, you have innocent civilians.
To date, the United States has stayed out of the conflict, but that may soon change. Back in July, the President stated that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, or any of the other players in the war (i.e. the FSA) would be to cross a red line, leading to US involvement in the conflict.
Recently, a proliferation of amateur video has surfaced on the Internet in the wake of what appears to be a Sarin gas attack on innocent civilians. Someone crossed Obama’s line. The question is was it Assad’s forces or the FSA.
In an address to the nation on Saturday August 31, the President made it clear that he is certain US intelligence has concrete evidence the Assad regime is behind the attacks, but also admitted that not everyone may agree.
“I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors,” said Obama. “I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.”
Are they paralyzed and unwilling or unsure due to fuzzy or inconclusive evidence?
Assad has used forceful language while denying that he ordered the use of chemical weapons, calling Obama weak and claiming that Obama cannot even convince his own people with the evidence that is available.
Obama plans on showing Assad he is wrong by securing Congressional approval for limited military strikes against Syrian government targets.
In order to get the support he needs, the Obama administration must provide answers to the crucial question: was it really Assad, was it the FSA, or was it a third party intent or further destabilizing the situation?
Gathering public support for US involvement in yet another Mid-East conflict may prove more difficult than the President may realize. He would be asking for Americans to back him even though our ally Britain’s parliament recently refused to support military intervention in Syria, even though he would not have the backing of the UN, and even though Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling for the Obama administration to provide more evidence to support its claims. As of now, the only other world leader who is backing Obama is the French President Francois Hollande.
Given the amount of international uncertainty surrounding the answer, it does raise some considerable questions about the firmness of the evidence, which the Obama administration is claiming to have.
With so much tension built up around this situation Obama has likely backed himself and our nation into a corner with no real way out. It doesn’t take a military expert to realize that a limited military strike on a few targets will not bring an end to this conflict. So what is the endgame here?
Obama needs to act, or at least attempt to, in order to show that he wasn’t bluffing, and this can lead to one of two outcomes.
One, Congress shoots the President down and Obama has to fold his hand whether he was bluffing or not. Whoever executed the Sarin attacks went all-in and won.
Two, Obama gets the approval he seeks and the bombs begin to drop, he wins this hand.
Neither outcome really has an upside. Outcome one virtually destroys President Obama’s international credibility- he made a bold claim and couldn’t back it up. Outcome two see’s us involved in another Mid-east conflict and may tick off some of our allies who want more proof before action is taken.
Let’s hope Obama has a few cards up his sleeve.