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In Syria, Obama Makes a Tough Call Tougher

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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.

It is too easy to take this opportunity to suggest we should elect better presidents. We would do well in the future to avoid fawning over oratory, getting snowed by coolness or driven to tip over a racial, gender or religious barrier. Let us demand instead strong commanders-in-chief who will tirelessly and unapologetically defend American interests in word and in deed, so that the world will know we are not to be trifled with.


Great. But what does that do for us today?

The sad fact is that an administration I do not trust for basic clarity on a wide range of issues is tasked with addressing a large world trouble spot.

So what do I ask from people I wish were not there? I am choosing to rest on the default settings of my core beliefs.

I believe America is a force for good in the world. This does not mean we can police every misdeed, but if it involves a terrorist regime that threatens our ally Israel while violating a clear global constraint against chemical weapon attacks, the case is made.

I will hope to heaven that this administration, which has lied to us about Benghazi and energized terrorists the world over with weak, stumbling stances, can muster the competence necessary to teach Assad a lesson.

I will hope the limited action is effective, but stays limited. I will hope that is enough.

That’s a lot of hope to direct toward a leader whose campaign based on “hope” drew no small amount of mockery from me. But what choice do I have?

While there is uncertainty surrounding the prospects of a Syrian military operation, there are some very definite dangers of doing nothing.

When the history of the post-9/11 world is written, it will observe that terrorists submitted when we aggressively fought them on their turf, and they grew nervy and ambitious when we let our guard down.


I wish I could read the foggy minds of the Obama team. Why are they so uncharacteristically willing to lead from the front in Syria? I hate that I am squinting in search of ulterior motives.

But again, this is America’s burden in the Obama era. The world does not know what to think of us, and citizens do not know what to think of their president.

So with prayers for the success of a military operation, and additional prayers that we can trust for once these people who have cobbled together such a shoddy foreign policy, I will wait, and watch. And hope.

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