Sunday, September 08, 2013

Fold our tents?

I listened to Pres. Obama's speech and answers to questions during his press conference on Weds with the Swedish PM in Stockholm, on his way to the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. As usual, I found Pres. Obama to be very articulate and persuasive. He made two major points regarding the crisis in Syria and the potential recourse to a military strike in response to the Assad regime using chemical weapons against its own civilians. This is, of course, assuming that the evidence for this is conclusive, as Pres. Obama stated that it is, based not only on the analysis of samples but also on intercepted conversations of Syrian regime members.

The first point that I found persuasive is that Pres. Obama stated that "it wasn't my red line" it was a red line adopted by the world in the Geneva Convention of 1925, that the use of poison gas against civilians is illegal under international law, and that countries may take any action deemed appropriate to prevent it. This was not only accepted by all the countries of the world, but also specifically by the US Congress, which makes it US law, which binds a US President to act accordingly. The argument, not a moral one but a pragmatic one, is that if such an unlawful action was taken and 1,400 people were killed, including over 400 children, then if no reaction occurs the law as such is rendered ineffectual and anyone, such as Iran, may resort to the use of forbidden WMD without expecting any consequences.

The other argument he used in response to the challenge, why not wait for a Security Council resolution and work under the auspices of the UN. He answered this as follows, suppose we do wait, and the SC is blocked by divided interests, as it is by Russia and China, what then, should we do nothing? It is important to realize that there are in fact differing interests in the world, and the US and the international community cannot afford to stand by and let such atrocities be commited without response. Should we fold our tents and leave the field of battle as a result of an absolute blockage by allies of the transgressor. The answer to this is of course, no! We cannot allow our sacred duty to be dependent on those who would veto any action.

Pres. Obama confirmed that he plans a "surgical" attack without "boots on the ground" to deter the Assad regime from taking any further such action, and that he engaged the Congress in the decision-making because it was appropriate to do so in this case, since no immediate US national interests were involved. On the contrary, this case it totally different from the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which involved war situations which were considered to be directly and imminently related to US national interests.

I was persuaded by these arguments and hopefully the Congress will be also, and in the not-too-distant future the US will launch a time-limited strike on Syrian Govt. capabilities. Then we will await the consequences, and I for one, as an Israeli, am prepared to accept the consequences of this action. Let us not fold our tents in the face of evil.


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