Action in Syria without a ‘clear rationale’ will haunt us

Updated
President Barack Obama arrives to make a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.
President Barack Obama arrives to make a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.
Charles Dharapak/AP

It’s time now to clear the air, and this is proving to be a confounding moment as the nation considers what action it might take in relation to Syria—and most particularly for the commander in chief.

This president, who came into office vowing to cease military interventions in Islamic nations, is now on the verge of launching air strikes on Syria. Earlier today, in Sweden, the president explained that his request for military authorization is not about himself, but about upholding a principle that has been embraced by almost the entire world: “I didn’t set a red line, the world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding use even when countries are engaged in war.”

Yet, while seeking to uphold that principle would seem ethically sound, it is in fact being undermined by our fear of the future and our regret for the past. The bogus and unfounded intelligence that led President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to wantonly stride into Iraq now weighs heavily on the nation—and nobody wants a repeat of that.

And then there’s the prospect of Iran plunging into the process of developing a nuclear weapon if it believes that the international community will do nothing if the government of Syria deploys chemical weapons.

So how does the president resolve this dangerous conundrum? Well, he might consider a speech that he himself gave over 10 years ago when he said that he would not support a “dumb war,” a “rash war”:

“I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.”

A “clear rationale” and “strong international support”… Over to you, Mr. President.

Action in Syria without a 'clear rationale' will haunt us

Updated