Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Political Tuesdays - How About a Quarantine?

If you like political theater, it's an interesting week.  I suspect President Obama is hoping the political maneuverings taking place on the subject of Syria will draw international attention away from any attempts at anti-American violence on the anniversary of 9-11 and Benghazi.  It might be a sound strategy up to a point, if it weren't for John Kerry.  And of course, the President's own mishandling of the issue from start to finish, which now creates a bizarre situation with Vladimir Putin scoring points against the U.S. in the "who can be more diplomatic?" competition.

I'm a little nostalgic for the Presidents of my childhood, who made special addresses to the nation not to whine about the political obstacles they faced, but to inform us of something concrete, like, "Two hours ago, on my orders, American fighter jets carried out an attack on x."  No navel-gazing, no inviting Congress to weigh in on something they claimed as a Presidential authority.  The buck stopped somewhere, and everyone knew it.  It wasn't even just Republican Presidents who did this, although Bill Clinton was most likely to authorize a bombing only if he needed to cover up a sex scandal.  They all knew better than to involve Congress unless a real war was imminent.  Congress doesn't do well at debating surgical strikes... they tend to be much less surgical, somehow.  More of a blunt instrument.

I'm sympathetic to an interventionist policy in the Middle East, rather than the more rigid approach favored by most libertarians... there are indeed some human rights abuses that demand a response from the civilized world, in my opinion.  But Obama's attempts to crowd-source a foreign policy (and leave a path open to blame the Republicans if it goes south) would be laughable if they weren't making the U.S. a laughingstock.

So I propose a middle ground for the Middle East: a quarantine.  Well, not completely.  Tempting as it might be to wait for two sides in Syria to kill each other off, like orcs fighting among themselves in The Lord of the Rings, that is unlikely.  But it is also most unlikely to solve the complexities of the situation on the ground in Syria by any military action, surgical or otherwise, without vast unforeseen consequences.  It's a sick society, with an entrenched evil dictator being challenged by evil-dictator-wannabes, and both sides using dirty tactics.  A sane foreign policy would be one that offered a small degree of protection to innocents (a humanitarian effort to relocate refugees) while denying aid to any faction whose cause is less than noble.  When any one of the warring parties wants to embrace democracy or stand trial for crimes against humanity, we should stand ready to assist if asked.  But until then, no money, no arms, no easy travel to and from, no embassies to become targets for hatred and resentment.  I would think both sides could agree on a minimalist approach to involvement in Syria, and if the strike really is necessary and could be "unbelievably small," couldn't it just as easily be carried out by the Oval Office alone?  Either that, or go the route to full-blown war, but to be successful at that, you really need an international coalition, a supportive nation, and a clearly defined set of objectives.  And expect a whole lot of opposition... just ask George W. Bush.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, telegraphing one's wimpy solutions is not a good plan. =P