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Sunday, September 1, 2013


Overall, you've got to figure that President Obama made the right choice: deferring any military action against Syria unless and until he receives congressional approval.  Of course, people will howl that he has damaged America's credibility by refusing to order the immediate cratering of Bashar al-Assad's presidential palace or something equally punitive in retaliation for the Syrian military's apparent gas attack on helpless civilians.  Then again, these would probably be many of the same people who would have howled that Emperor Obama was disdaining the Constitution had he gone ahead with a military strike without seeking Congress' blessing.  So we all might be wise to ignore most of the howling.

Personally, I'm torn about the whole situation.  If Assad actually ordered a poison-gas attack that killed scores of civilians, including numerous children, then he certainly deserves a special place in Hell.  I can't help but wonder, though, why it always seems to fall to the United States to administer such punishments.  True, the US possesses the world's strongest military, and this country has, at least in its rhetoric, always expressed a commitment to universal rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  But there are other countries with powerful militaries (at any rate, militaries that are more than capable of dealing damage to a regime like Syria's), and plenty of other nations that have expressed equal or greater outrage at the sight of dead Syrian children.  Why is everyone sitting around waiting for America to act?

This sort of situation, of course, is exactly what the United Nations was created for.  That organization, though, is hamstrung by the fact that Russia continues to support the Syrian government and also holds veto power over any proposed interventions.  So if Assad is to be punished, it will have to fall to other countries.

At any rate, Obama made the right move.  If Congress authorizes force, the President can order military strikes without, at least, worrying about domestic charges of unconstitutional overreach.  If Congress denies him such authorization, then the United States can at least for the moment avoid yet another military entanglement in the Middle East.

And maybe in the long run a slight loss of American credibility might not be such a bad thing: If the rest of the world--especially other liberal democracies with a strong commitment to human rights--realizes that America won't always take matters into its own hands, then maybe there can be a greater sharing of humanity's burdens.

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