Obama and a Syria Strike
Gabriel C Banda
Yes, I believe, Obama’s 2013 position not to openly strike Syria with American forces was the appropriate one.
As outgoing President Barack Obama’s legacy assessment will continue for ever, we will consider one issue.
There are those who feel that if Barack Obama had in 2013 ordered an attack on Syria due to accusations around the Bashar al-Assad administration and chemical weapon use, the recent outcome in Aleppo and Syria would have been against Assad. The accusers almost blame Barack Obama’s non-striking as the cause of the situation they are unhappy with.
Their wish had been for a “swift” and “sharp” strike that would have disabled, and removed, the Assad administration.
Strike supporters included John McCain and, sadly, Hillary Clinton, and others such as “Professor” Bernard-Henri Levy, so-called “philosopher.” Bernard-Henri Levy, consistent with his war-mongering, had been a strong supporter of the intervention in Libya and the removal of Muammar Gaddafi.
Over abuse of force, Levy has been a war monger hiding, or excused, under the coats of academic freedom and free expression. Had it not been for the tags of “Professor,” “Philosopher,” and “intellectual” he is referred by others with, the unclothed position of Bernard-Henri Levy would be more clearly recognised as that of a thug.
Still unrepentant about the terrible and evil effects of his position, Bernard-Henri Levy greatly supported and continues to defend, when on BBC and other media, the 2011 invasion of Libya led by the war lord Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then France’s president.
Nicolas Sarkozy, with a guillotine trailed against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, used the machinery of the France government, and even twisting the United Nations system, to force a coalition of force that removed Libya’s Gaddafi and led to instability that has affected Libya, Africa, the Middle East, and the whole world, including innocent people in France and Britain, the USA, and ally nations assembled in the raid on Gaddafi and Libya.
The proponents of a swift strike and knock-out of Assad and administration have used Barack Obama’s warning about not crossing some red line against him. They use it as an Obama weakness because Obama had given a warning and did not follow it up with action.
It does not seem to matter to them whether Obama’s action would be right or appropriate for the emerged situation but that he had said it and therefore should have proceeded to attack Syria. It seems not to matter to them that the issue of chemical weapons use was not easy to definitely assign.
It does not seem to matter to them that the reasons or excuses of Weapon of Mass Destruction or Crimes Against Humanity used by intervening governments have at sometimes come out false or snares.
It seemed not to matter that the position of a clean, swift, strike was an assumption that was based on a sense of supremacy of oneself over others considered easily conquerable. Why is there an assumption that military might will always defeat others?
In long gone times and recent times, some rulers have acted improperly and created long term difficulties for all of us. Many leaders and rulers, from George W Bush Jr to Tony Blair, have acted by poor egos and handled the arsenals of military and force with immaturity. Many leaders and rulers have not been mature enough to handle authority over force.
Angela Merkel Maturity
However, not all rulers have the same immaturity over use of force. One who has been cautious about use of force has been German’s Angela Merkel, a person of greatness, and one of the most mature of rulers and leaders in modern times.
To some degree, especially for an American president, Barack Obama has on some critical times acted with great caution where others would have thrown in the military machine heavily. This, not acting to go in when one is not sure, has been faulted against him.
In my view, it is better to be cautious about the use and effect of force and violence than end up creating the results that George W Bush Jr did in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barack Obama’s caution is a more sustainable and just position than that of leaping and attacking first and then thinking later, with turmoil around you.
Some bully others because these bullies feel they have weapon arsenals and can always defeat others they consider lesser. It has been said that some bully others because the bullies have weapons and want to try out the weapons or intimidate others. Without weapons, they will not bully others.
In 2013, there was pressure to have Barack Obama and Britain’s David Cameron to repeat a duet, as George W Bush Jr and Tony Blair did over Iraq, and attack Syria. What helped the situation was the British parliament, with much of the public behind them, voting against the move to another open war.
To his credit, and democratic credentials, David Cameron readily and politely accepted not to proceed with the proposed open armed intervention. That helped Barack Obama’s position for, without ally Britain, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has been reluctant to attack alone.
What if Barack Obama had directly used America’s forces to intervene in Syria and remove Assad? The results might have included the following: If Assad had fallen, ISIS would have been stronger. If Assad had fallen, ISIS may have now been in control in Syria. ISIS may have become Syria or Syria would have become the ISIS state.
Then also, there would have been no guarantee that American strikes could have happened without injury on America and those intervening. In scriptures, the story of small David and big Goliath is a lesson for all times.
You should never underestimate your opponent. Already, without factual basis, many officials in the West had underestimated the resilience of the Assad administration and thought he would collapse in a short time, in months rather than years. The situation turned out differently.
Barack Obama had been reluctant to get in to support Nicolas Sarkozy in the removal of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Obama’s weakness was to yield to Sarkozy and reluctantly join in. It is not enough to say one did something wrong because another had insisted to be joined.
Within his administration, war monger Susan Rice pushed for the military intervention and even insulted Africa’s rulers for calling for caution because of the effects they feared would happen with intervention. The effects feared came to pass. Obama had allowed people like Susan Rice and Nicolas Sarkozy to work against his inner caution over Libya.
Another sin that Obama fell into was to agree to support the armed rebels fighting the Assad administration in the so-called “Arab Spring.” Clearly, ISIS was, from the beginning, in the “Arab Spring.”
Yes, I believe, Obama’s position not to strike Syria was the appropriate one. Already, the position to support armed rebellion against Assad’s Syria in a conflict with religious undertones was not appropriate, with its consequences that led to the rise of ISIS as Syria government forces faced militias from many groups.
There have been times when rulers of America’s regimes, feeling and acting on the myth that their country is a superpower and can push around others to do what it wants, have gone on to take actions that have created immediate and long-term problems for others, the USA, and the world.
Over the decades, even just to take the decades following World War II, this has happened under various administrations, Republican and Democrats. There seems to be in the background a machinery that, with whatever party in office, tries to assert intervention in other parts of the world – even where the intervention will create difficulties for those intervened, others, and the United States itself.
In recent times, this has happened over the invasion of Afghanistan, occupation of Iraq, and, without lessons being learnt and applied, intervention in Libya. Another key burden of a US administration has been supporting the armed rebellion against Syria’s Assad administration. But Barack Obama’s avoiding of striking Syria in 2013 was, I believe, the appropriate one. That will be a pleasant memory of the Obama legacy.
**Gabriel Banda has been on the MA Peace Studies Bradford University programme.