COMMENTARY | As President Obama prepares to address the nation about the situation in Syria, an ordinary citizen should be grateful he doesn’t sit in Congress and have to cast a vote on this true dilemma. Indeed, the ordinary citizen is forgiven for throwing up his hands up and yelling, “Forget it! I’m sick of war! And anyways, a dilemma is by definition a choice between two lousy options, and I’m picking the option that doesn’t cost money, possibly lives of Americans, certainly lives of Syrians, and possibly lives of Israelis and/or others.”
Unfortunately, odds are only about 50-50 that this frustrated citizen will be satisfied (if that’s the right term – it’s also about 50-50 that term is wrong). There will be two votes in Congress very soon on this matter, and the money and lives could be spent. Moreover, the President believes that spending must be done – in a limited, “surgical” way, as in we’re going to fire a dozen or so cruise missiles into Syrian government sites and, we hope, only hit equipment…and maybe a few of those chemical triggermen.
Both Congress and citizens are actively wrestling with three notions here: 1) Chemical weapons were used “for sure” about August 21 in Syria; those weapons killed over 1000 people, including children, and the president says this was done by the national government there. (For the record, such weapons have been widely accepted as illegal three separate times since 1899, indeed before they even existed.) 2) Very recently in American history, intelligence about such weapons of mass destruction has been wrong. (Google “Second Iraq War, the Run-up to”; no specific link is necessary.) And 3) President Obama has said that the use of such weapons is a “red-line” matter requiring a response; this is widely said to be important in terms of America’s credibility.
First, let’s throw out number three. Who cares, as my brother often points out, what any politician says? As the saying goes, the sun will come up tomorrow if Obama doesn’t keep his word, and nobody new will be inspired to take up actual arms against us who doesn’t already have them locked and loaded.
So the real question, on which congressmen within both parties disagree, comes down to: What’s more important? That an alleged strike by the Syrian government killed children with illegal weapons, given that no trial will take place on “that alleged thing,” or that you, I and others are skeptical about any current U.S. information about WMDs? That’s right: dead kids versus a mindset.
Dead children are palpable; a mindset isn’t, so the strike is needed – in my mind by a painfully close 51-49.
And we need be ready to scramble the jets in defense of Tel Aviv against Iran and possibly others. It’s not exactly the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it’s damned close.