Welcome to life in a tough world, made tougher by an unreliable American president.
The current Syria mess would be challenging enough if Ronald Reagan were to come back to navigate it. But give us a president this unwise about the world, this unreliable in defending America and this untrustworthy when the going gets rough, and a hard road gets even harder.
I have spent the week fielding a wide variety of Syria calls on radio. I have heard from people who say we have to act because Obama threw down the “red line.” That is a worthy point.
I have heard from people who say we should not intervene because the bar is not met for devoting American war resources. That is a worthy point.
I have heard people say there are dangers to doing nothing, because it will embolden Assad and other tyrants in the region and beyond. This is a worthy point.
I have heard people say that even if we cripple the Assad regime, his rivals may have sufficient al Qaeda ties to give us a whole new set of nightmares. This is a worthy point.
I have heard people ask: what if we take bold, assertive action and Syria attacks Jerusalem? Our dream of a clean, limited operation vaporizes if we in fact spark a regional war. This is a worthy point.
I could go on. I have heard strong arguments for taking action, and they are the points I agree with most. “Leading from behind” has been a disaster, and if this White House is actually in the mood to punish an evil regime for an objectively reviled evil act, I’m prepared to be supportive, and pleasantly surprised for once.
But critics of launching against Syria have strong points on their side. There is no imminent threat against American soil. The results of such an operation are disturbingly uncertain. Limited actions do not always stay that way.
And then there is the issue of public enthusiasm for such an operation, which appears dim at best.
Into this vacuum, what is needed is a bold, determined American president to display actual leadership.
If the decision were to act, this president would work to calm the concerns of skeptics, asking them to trust him based on a track record of successful use of strong words and strong actions.
If his instinct were to stop short of the military option, he would reassure those seeking intervention that he has high hopes of calming the situation with muscular diplomacy and some alternative method of exacting accountability.
So let’s review. What we need from our president right now is boldness, decisiveness, trustworthiness, reliability, diplomatic acumen and resourcefulness.
What we have is Barack Obama.