Looking for allies to punish Assad for alleged use of WMD.

by James Towe

There was a change in direction Friday night as the president rethought his position on Syria. Just hours earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech with a forceful argument for military action. He argued that Syria had willfully violated international conventions by its ruthless use of biological agents against Syrian civilians, thus demanding a response by civilized nations. 

The attack is confirmed to have killed over 1,400 people, almost a third were children. 

Following a long walk Friday night with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, President Obama called an impromptu press gathering in the Rose Garden for Saturday morning. Evidently, the president decided 'going it alone' in Syria was too risky politically, especially with the reasonable possibility of retaliation against Israel from Hezbollah or some other proxy. 

The use of chemical weapons is a particularly egregious method of killing people, especially innocents. The fact, though, is that Syrians have been dying in mass numbers by various methods for over two years.

Over a 100,000 are dead in a civil war where no good options have been discovered. The international community, including the Obama Administration, have avoided any direct assistance, at least publicly, for fear of arming al-Qaeda affiliates.

The president feels compelled to act as Assad crossed the now infamous 'red-line' drawn by Mr Obama. Strangely, this isn't the first time chemical weapons have been used in Syria. The latest WMD attack simply exceeds anything seen previously in the war. But the president's credibility was lost long ago by ignoring his own 'line in the sand'. This led to more egregious attacks, allegedly by Assad.

The Syria situation is a fine example of why American presidents should never make idle threats. Assad, in each attack, has upped the ante, so to speak. This sort of dithering leads to dictators making miscalculations and creating crises; events that would force the hand of a staunch an anti-war president. Taking forceful action at the first hint of disobedience by one of the world's ruthless dictators, when you have drawn a line, saves  lives in perpetuity. 

The president's hesitancy may draw America into a larger conflict.

Countries like Iran and North Korea were watching this president very carefully. I fear they have concluded the United States doesn't mean what it says. This places allies in dangerous and difficult positions when it comes to self defense and weighing unilateral action as America withdraws its leadership.

Ronald Reagan's doctrine of  'peace through strength' holds as true today as during the Cold War. We must mean what we say as the leader of the world because empty threats may lead to catastrophic ends.