The Administration is full of smart people, but what it needs are wise people who understand something about human nature. Scorched earth politics burn away the relationships and trust one will need to lean on after he unilaterally draws a red line and then finds himself needing support from his opponents when the enemy steps across.
But that cannot be helped now – we are where we are, and that is on the brink of yet another war. If the President truly believes this is the right course of action, he must literally step up to the podium and place his credibility behind it. He must personally take on the responsibility for this war.
There can be no voting present. Like George W. Bush, the President himself must ask the Congress to go to war over an Arab dictator’s weapons of mass destruction. And he must, alone, bear the responsibility for the consequences.
He must answer the questions that naturally arise from his request. What form will this war take? How long will it last? What is the end state this war seeks to achieve?
These questions are basic queries that any strategist would ask. That we have no answers yet raises serious questions in and of itself.
Assad’s gang of murderers are scum, and they fully deserve whatever we might do to them. They used chemical weapons against civilians, a ghastly crime which justifies whatever penalty we choose to impose. That is not the point.
The point is whether chastising these degenerates is in our national interest. How will doing so be to the advantage of the United States of America?
That is the only standard by which we must measure our strategy. Sarin gas is horrific. So are bombs and bullets and bayonets, and their innocent victims are just as dead. We cannot punish every dictator who butchers his own people because if we tried to do so we would be doing nothing else.
Mr. President, how will it support American interests to attack Syria? This is not about our revulsion at brutality. It is about how much treasure and how many lives – especially American lives – we will sacrifice in order to attain … what? What is the goal? What conditions do we seek to establish that make mothers weeping over their son’s and daughter’s caskets worthwhile?
Assad’s regime, through its support of terrorists in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere, have caused hundreds, even thousands of American deaths. If it was simply a matter of destroying the likes of the bloated Syrian officer I met in Saudi Arabia the answer would be clear: Take them out.
But it is not so simple. Our regime enemies are engaged in a death struggle with our al-Qaeda enemies. Do we want to tip the scales from one set of psychotic criminals toward another, possibly worse, set of psychotic criminals? Why shouldn’t we just sit back and watch as our sworn enemies kill each other?
Only the President can answer those questions. And he must do so, personally, alone on the podium, before a joint session of Congress and before the American people whose sons and daughters will fight this war.