Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Obama’s Syrian Quandary: Why is 2012 Any Different from 1982?

With each passing day, the Obama administration and the international community appear to be struggling to find a way to deal with the crisis in Syria. Just four days ago the United States closed the US Embassy in Syria after Russia and China blocked a UN resolution drafted by Arab and European countries on Saturday that may have supplied aid or set up a buffer zone that would involve a military dimension to protect vulnerable civilians.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the veto a “travesty” and Washington’s U.N. ambassador Susan Rice said she was “disgusted” by Russia and China’s vetoes adding that “any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands.” President Barack Obama's asked for the U.N. Security Council to hold firm against the Syrian regime's "relentless brutality" and has indicated that the ongoing conflict in Syria should be resolved without foreign military interference, suggesting that a solution for Syria can be proffered via negotiations.

The problem for the President is twofold. First the position and inconsistencies his policy has manifest throughout the democratic uprisings in the region from Egypt to Libya and the appearance that his cabinet officials could send a strong message of accountability and/or his perceived lack of desire to hold his senior appointees responsible for their performance.

The entire situation in the Middle East is untenable in its present state. From the current inaction and war of words, it is almost as if the Obama administration sees the real targets of the Syria regime-change goal as Russia and China, since both see the U.S. as seeking to establish absolute control over the strategic oil supplies in the Persian Gulf. Not to mention that human rights advocates view the UN’s resolution’s failure and U.S. inaction might encourage the Assad government to intensify its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters, as evident from increased attacks in areas in protest against the Assad regime.

Obama is in a serious quandary. The Syrian army has continued to launch mortar and rocket attacks in the city of Homs, Syria's third-largest city, and the leading focus of unrest in the 11-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. On the record Obama has openly stated that "Assad has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community." But in the eyes of the world he gives the locution of being selecting favorite as well as ignoring the same democratic principles he outlined for supporting a no-fly zone in Libya. Also, and more troubling, his assertion that not every situation allows for the type of military action taken in Libya when his global middle –east policy purports otherwise.

Obama’s actions are also affiliated with election year politics, since it may be seen that taking military options off the table is a political ploy to demonstrate his conviction to his campaigning on reducing US military intervention around the globe prior to election. Whatever the case, the US needs define their purpose and outcome in Syria as it pertains to the entire region. Thus the administrations proclamation that outside military involvement in Syria by the US as being more difficult and risky than the mission in Libya appears disingenuous, especially to those nations in the Middle East whom we claim we desire to see democratic change.

The President in my estimation should not be dragged into another military exercise, in particular give his campaign promises of 2008 and his seemingly anxiousness to do all in his power to show how grand of a friend he is too the state of Israel. Truth is told this is nothing new to Syria. In February 1982, when Reagan was in the Whitehouse former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad initiated a brutal crackdown in the western Syrian city of Hama in order to quell an emergent uprising and a Sunni rebellion. The assault lasted for three weeks and Hama was effectively demolished. With the number of casualties estimated to be between 20,000 and 40,000 civilians, including women and children.

The Hama Massacre was the bloodiest event in Syrian history. President Hafez al-Assad was the father of the current president Bashar al-Assad. It should be remembered (and I hope President Obama does) that it occurred during a period during the aftermath of Israel's attack on Syrian forces in Lebanon in 1982. The administration of Ronald Reagan had to choose to support one of the two nations and landed on the side of Syria.

For the GOP to forget this history is strange. Maybe because it was a time when Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam, to speak about regional issues of mutual interest, mainly their shared enmity toward Iran and Syria. No one asked Reagan to intervene in Syria in 1982, but everyone is asking Obama to do so. My query is, what makes 2012 any different than 1982? A question no pundit or Republican will ever ask.

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