President Barack Obama struck the right note in his address to the American people regarding greater U.S. intervention in Syria. Obama laid out the reasons the Assad government’s poison gas attack on the civilian population cannot go unchallenged, but also explained why he was willing to give a Russian proposal for the seizure and destruction of chemical weapons a chance to work before he orders missile strikes in Syria.
The president made it clear that U.S. destroyers armed with cruise missiles operating in the eastern Mediterranean will remain on alert while action on the diplomatic front continues. Obama sent Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, while he was continuing talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
By refusing to take the military option off the table, Obama has sent a strong message to President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies that delaying tactics or other attempts to keep the chemical weapons from being destroyed will not be taken lightly.
The president is seeking congressional approval for a limited strike — aimed at the Assad government’s munitions stockpiles — but the response from both Democrats and Republicans has been lukewarm, at best.
Indeed, with a majority of the American people opposed to any U.S. intervention in Syria, members of Congress are loathe to give the green light to the president for even a one-time operation.
The diplomatic solution proposed by Russia gives the Obama administration time to make the case to the members of Congress and the American people.
“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” the president said in his address to the nation. “As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas.”
No one who has seen the photographs and video recordings of the more than 1,400 men, women and children who were killed can ignore the sheer horror of the deaths.
Obama wasn’t exaggerating when he talked about children writhing in pain and then dying on hospital floors.
Such inhumanity perpetrated by a despot against his own people demands a response. The world cannot sit idly by while Assad seeks to put down the popular uprising that began more than two years ago with a campaign of mass killings.
Heavy human toll
More than 200,000 Syrians have died, most of them rebels seeking to overthrow the regime.
While Americans are rightly worried about this nation getting bogged down in another military excursion, tyrants like Assad only back down when confronted by a superpower like the United States.
His willingness to listen to what the Russians have to say about turning over his chemical weapons to the international community for destruction suggests that he is taking the threat of a missile attack seriously.
If the diplomatic solution is embraced, the United Nations must make sure that all the chemical weapons in Syria are removed and ultimately destroyed.
To achieve this, President Obama should keep the destroyers in the Mediterranean on alert, with the missiles aimed at Damascus and other places where munitions are stored.