President Barack Obama is no pacifist. We have known that since he won the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009: In his acceptance speech, he said that conflict is appropriate sometimes. “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes,” Obama said. “There will be times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified.”
Now Obama must decide whether to send the American military to end the civil war in Syria -- whether this would be necessary and morally justified. In the last two years, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, and there is mounting evidence that President Bashar Assad may have used chemical weapons against his fellow Syrians in his fight to stay in power. But this is a war that Obama does not want to get involved in -- yet.
Most Americans understand his reluctance. National polls show that the majority of Americans do not want to get involved in yet another armed conflict. This president understands how costly -- in terms of lives, dollars and credibility -- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been for the United States.We know that the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake, and that President George W. Bush’s order to invade was based on ideology rather than necessity. Yes, Saddam Hussein was murderous, but his government was not involved in the 9/11 attacks, and it did not have weapons of mass destruction. Saddam’s regime posed little threat to the United States. On the other hand, the Taliban-led regime in Afghanistan was a direct threat to U.S. national security. Its decision to shelter Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network made the 2001 American invasion necessary and morally justified.
Assad’s government in Syria does not pose a threat to the United States like the Taliban did in 2001, so Obama has not been able to order either a military assault or the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Syria.
Even Assad’s use of chemical weapons poses problems for Obama. In August, the U.S. president warned that if the regime used chemical weapons against its people, it would cross a “red line,” which could lead to military intervention by the United States. While Secretary of State John Kerry and other members of Obama’s administration, along with officials from other nations, have pointed to evidence that chemical warfare has begun in Syria, confirmation that Assad is responsible has been elusive.
Whether or not Assad ordered his military to use chemical weapons, the Syrian government is massacring its own people, and the United States has done little to stop it, except for providing “nonlethal” support to the rebels in Syria and increasing diplomatic pressure on Russia to support Assad’s overthrow.
The White House would rather be criticized for doing nothing than getting the country involved in another war. Obama thinks that the harm outweighs the advantages and so, for the time being, the Syrian conflict will continue.))