• What are you doing, Mr. President?
    September 03,2013

    What are you doing, Mr. President?

    According to recent polls many have been troubled by and/or have strong feelings against the prospect of a U.S. military response to the gassing of citizens in Syria. I am troubled, too, both by the current military options but also the lack of emotional outrage even by you (although not Secretary of State John Kerry) about the breaking of international norms. I have listened to lots of commentary on your deep dilemmas in addressing the Syrian situation this past week and tonight I feel called to make a few personal comments of my own that I donít hear very loudly in the media.

    First concerning comments from those opposing taking military action: I found too many comments had the isolationist bent that what happens outside the United States doesnít affect us or U.S. strategic interests. In this ever-more interdependent, one world, what happens anywhere will affect all of us in the long run. The slow international movement toward setting rules about war making and limiting a few forms of war such as banning chemical-biological weapons should be accelerated, not ignored. Thus, why donít you, as our President, take this issue to the United Nations and make your strong case using all the intelligence out there, the UNís own, ours and othersí. The argument we should not do so because Russia and China will veto any proposal is weak, as former Secretary of Defense William Cohen argues. This is an issue for world public opinion to debate. The United Statesí best option is to make a strong case and show up Russia and Chinaís defense of Syria.

    Next, as many are arguing, you should take your his case to Congress and let our representatives debate and their constituents weigh in to decide how best to oppose the use of chemical weapons (even as I fear the isolationist views that will be presented).

    Concerning comments from those supporting taking military action: Perhaps eventually a military response to protect the weak will be required. However, Iím afraid not only Wall Street but our U.S. government looks too often for short-term, not long-terms returns. In the present situation, a short-term military action is widely admitted and even implied by your statements to be pretty ineffective. Those in opposition make sense that the long-term, unintended consequences have not been thought through carefully.

    When you went about finding Osama Bin Ladin, you took a long-term view and everyone knew you meant it and accepted that. Why not use the same approach for Assad for not only for his use of gas, but also his responsibility for the death of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. You also should also announce and try thought-out alternative ways (cyber warfare, etc.) to back the international conventions on war and to oppose the inhumane Assad.

    Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement showed the strength of non-violent approaches so take time to explore them. Your and U.S. credibility, which seems the only part of your message to be making headway, will be much better served by a long-term, passionate and, perhaps, non-violent strategy, not the short-term, half-hearted, and violent message you seem to be espousing.

    A long-term supporter and a U.S. and global citizen,

    Harris Webster


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