Here’s the situation: The president of the United States has resisted pressure to get involved in a civil war going on halfway around the world. The dictator of the unfortunate country is as brutal as any in the region, and since surrounding nations have thrown off their own brutal dictators in the last few years, it’s no surprise that rebels are thirsty for freedom. Still, it’s none of our business. But an international standard was established about 100 years ago regarding a certain weapon that can’t be used, and if the dictator is known to have used that weapon, crossing that “red line,” then, according to the president, we must intervene. Seems pretty cut and dried.
But then the lines get fuzzy. The rebels are a mixed bag, to say the least. Even the Obama administration admits that 15 to 20 percent of them are “bad guys.” Other estimates indicate at least half, probably more, are Islamic extremists. Some, it is claimed, may have used chemical weapons themselves, while others make a practice of cutting out and devouring the organs of their foes. Others are in the battle for revenge over long-held grudges. Experience in Libya and Egypt tells us that when you ditch a brutal dictator you’re likely to get a fanatical Islamist regime. What sounds like a yearning to breathe free in this part of the world is actually a yearning to stamp out every opposition voice and establish a new caliphate. Sen. John McCain assures us that most of the rebels are “moderates,” but is he being deliberately blind?
Besides, the President Obama is coming across as less than resolute. After an impassioned speech by Secretary of State John Kerry on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, who indicated that fast action was imperative, the president decided to hit “pause” the next day and ask for support from Congress—which he claimed he did not to need. Next, Obama denied that he ever drew a red line, and if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues his brutal ways, it will be the fault of “the international community,” not him. Unless it turns out to be the fault of Congress, as most of the unfortunate occurrences of his administration are.
… if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8)
The bugle is certainly sounding an indistinct objective. If the president (or Congress, or the American people, or the international community, or whoever drew that red line) hopes to teach Assad a lesson, “limited military action” isn’t likely to do it. A slap on the wrist, even with a Tomahawk cruise missile, won’t discourage a dictator resolute enough to gas his own people. So what’s the purpose of intervention, again?
The conservative case asserts that the president has put us in a difficult position but our national credibility depends on backing him up. I suggest our credibility has already suffered, but it can be rebuilt. Weighed in the balance of an even more unstable Middle East and the immediate danger to our Christian brothers and sisters, U.S. credibility can sit this one out.