In the wake of an embarrassing defeat his friend and closest ally David Cameron suffered in the Britain House of Commons on Thursday, President Obama feels compelled to go facing US Congress in a desperate search for legitimacy before embarking up on a war that the majority of the American people and, by extension, the world believes is downright unnecessary. Obama’s move is unprecedented with unforeseen implications for future American presidents. The executive branch of government gives him the power to wage war without congressional approval, as he himself acknowledged in a relatively short speech before the White House press corps a few hours ago.
However, doing so in search unpopular way and being acutely aware of the ugly side of war, Obama seems to have calculated that engaging in hostility against another country without an authorization from Congress would definitely put him in the same side of history with the man he’s succeeded: George W. Bush.
Just last week, Obama made it clear that he had already made his decision and that he had authorized General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to be ready for his final order. This afternoon what we have just heard was a cautious president who is ready to roll the dice, gambling his political prestige by facing his adversaries in a game he definitely understands could be difficult for him to win.
In a meeting with his congressional leaders this morning, he laid out his position and he urged them to go selling it before the “representatives of the American people.” With his vice-president by his side during the short but bombastic speech, Barack Obama goes on to say that “right makes might, not the other way around.” But right does not hold the absolute truth, and it always depends on the victor’s justice, for in the eyes of the beholder, war is despicable and must be avoided as much as possible. So, in the logic of the powerful, might will always be right. If Syria were North Korea with the nukes to frame its strategic deterrence, this semantic statement would not have been made.
François Hollande totally overlooked
Another casualty of this vexing process is France’s president, François Hollande, who was ready to fill the void left by David Cameron. Now he must learn that his subordinating role may be appreciated by Washington, but it weighs insignificantly in the strategic planning, going in to war. Hollande is going to have to either seek parliamentary approval like Obama is doing or align with former French president Jacques Chirac’s idea and evokes La France’s grand position of no-alignment with regards to imperial crusades against weak nations.
No one agrees that Assad’s brutal regime is what is best for Syria. No one also agrees that poison-gazed innocent people must go unpunished. However, are we absolutely certain it was Assad and his men who orchestrated this hideous act? Even if it were Assad, does the United States have the right to intervene militarily in the affairs of a sovereign nation? Syria is not some US territory, and the UN charter clearly states that every country has the right to self-determination. Remember a year ago in Aleppo? Then, the rebel used crude devices made out of chemical agents and gazed hundreds of people to force NATO to take on Assad. It was UN chief investigator Carla Del Ponte who publically rejected the rebels’ claim. Furthermore, while we wait for the UN findings to get a better understanding of what substance was used to kill these innocent people, we may be in no better position to accuse Assad then we are now when the findings are finally published. The job of the UN inspectors is to find whether or not chemical agents were used, but not who used them. Read Bombing Syria.
In the end, why carpet-bombing Syria? Can that produce regime change? Will it make life better for the resilient Syrian people? If the answer to these questions is NO, we must understand that Obama is doing this for one reason and one reason only: to maintain his political prestige in the eyes of his foes, not his friends, in order to avoid further deviation from his unfinished manuscript that he hopes to be the biggest bestseller in presidential history. Here is the president in his own words this afternoon, while pressing his case.
Dr. Ardain Isma is editor-in-chief of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF). He is a scholar as well as a novelist. He may be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org