Giving diplomacy a chance
strengthens his hand with
skeptical Congress and public
President Obama speaks to the nation and the world from the White house on Tuesday. Click image to enlarge.
JERUSALEM – It was not exactly a fireside chat, but President Barack Obama was at his best Tuesday evening when he laid out his case for a military strike against Syria.
He also demonstrated his wisdom: he realized that Congress and a skeptical public needs more time to get with the program.
And, he gave peace a chance.
“A failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction, and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran,” the president said.
“What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?”
He is right. It is not a world we want to live in.
JERUSALEM WAS FAST ASLEEP when the 15-minute prime time address was delivered from behind a podium by an animated president who was almost professorial.
He addressed the core issue early on in his speech. Then added:
“[A world where weapons of mass destruction can be used with impunity] is not a world we should accept.,” he said. “This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.”
The key words here are “careful deliberation.”
The New York Times web site gave the speech full treatment minutes after it ended. Click image to enlarge.
Do you think George W. Bush could ever have convinced anyone he had done the same before invading Iraq on false pretenses 10 years ago?
At least we know Obama is capable of deep intellectual thought about the nature of the human condition.
His intellect was on full display on Tuesday evening.
“I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions,” the president said.
“[But] even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”
In a passage aimed directly at those who still think Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were right about invading Iraq, Obama said:
“I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force — we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next.”
Remember, it was then Secretary of State Colin Powell who so famously counseled Bush about the Pottery Barn rule: “You broke it, you fix it.”
Iraq is still broken, but we have long since abandoned fixing it.
“But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons,” the president said.
CHANGING THE TOPIC to the new diplomatic push by Russia for a peaceful exit from the crisis, the president showed his willingness to try but also deep reservations about the possibility for success.
The Jerusalem Post web site also leads with the speech on Wednesday morning. Click image to enlarge.
“[T]his initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies,” the president said.
But, he and half the rest of the world, has a deep and justified skepticism that either Putin or Assad can be trusted.
“I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path,” Obama said.
The key passage, the most convincing statement of the speech came right at the end.
“Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used,” the president said.
“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong.
“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.
“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”
Right on every count.
Let us hope the message gets through to those who need to hear it loudest.
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