President Obama is right: the United States has given more than any other country to help mitigate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria. For that he deserves our gratitude. But what he remains unwilling to consider, it seems, is that the United States has several options, not to mention a moral obligation, to actually stop this disaster in track before it mushrooms into a regional meltdown. This will be the biggest humanitarian aid package of all. His reiterated commitment to Assad’s removal and to supporting the transition to democratic rule is laudable, but his failure to explain how this could be accomplished and what the U.S. intends to do to achieve this 18-month old objective continues to puzzle.
As the Syrian Tragedy continues to unfold, it is proven much more of a serious challenge to lawmakers all over the world than many of us had expected. It is denuding us all, and revealing weaknesses not just in the structure of decision-making in the UN, but also in several important countries around the world, including the United States, as we can deduce from this article by Bennett Ramberg:
Congress should reconvene the hearings begun last session. This time, however, it must press for details about the administration’s assumptions about intervening or not. In addition, all the hearings should be public – not secret, as the administration prefers. This will give the American people confidence in the decision-making. Among the broad questions the hearings should explore:
• Why should Syria’s use of chemical weapons be more concerning than the conventional arms that have killed many tens of thousands and wounded countless others?
• Have policymakers exaggerated chemical weapons’ effectiveness to kill, injure and terrorize?
• Given concerns that terrorists could get hold of these weapons, what challenges would they confront to transport and detonate the toxic material in and out of Syria?
• Why can’t Syria’s neighbors, Turkey, Jordan and Israel – all substantial military powers in the region – deal with this challenge?
• How many and what kinds of U.S. forces would operations require –with and without allies – to lock down the Syrian chemical arsenal? Would air power be enough? Would boots on the ground be required to secure secret sites? Could rebel militias serve this purpose?
• If the United States intervenes, what is the game plan and exit strategy to prevent another quagmire?
Congress should mold its findings into a joint House and Senate resolution – still plausible on national security issues even as legislators divide on budgetary matters – unblemished by executive branch drum-beating or quaking.
If Congress does this, it won’t just be addressing the Syrian challenge. It will finally begin to right the imbalance of power between the executive and lawmakers that for too long has dominated American war deciding.
This will begin to fulfill what the War Powers Resolution intended – to “insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the president will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities.”
What makes these points particularly important is that they are made by someone who used to be the Obama Administration’s point man on Syria just until the end of last year:
Indeed, the United States’ recognition of the Syrian Opposition Coalition in December 2012 as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people” would be meaningless without the implicit understanding that those who legitimately represent 22.5 million Syrians have the right to constitute a government. And yet, were such a government to establish itself on liberated Syrian territory, would the United States recognize it as the Syrian government? Would it help to defend that government against the Assad regime’s likely efforts to strangle it in the cradle? Would it enter into a security assistance relationship with the new Syrian government? Would it organize an international effort to fund the new government at levels that would enable it to meet the humanitarian, essential services, and law-and-order needs of its constituents? These questions must be answered—and answered definitively—before the Syrian Opposition Coalition can reasonably undertake the establishment of such a government…
The possibility of the Syrian opposition forming an alternative government offers the Obama administration a choice it does not welcome: either reconsider its basic strategy or tell the opposition (and our allies and friends) not to count on the United States to do the things that would give a new government the chance to succeed. The former could be wrenching, as key administration officials see Syria as a beckoning morass: the mother of all distractions for a second Obama term dedicated to accomplishing an ambitious agenda at home and creating a sustainable and stable security architecture in Asia. Yet the latter could be disastrous; given enough rope Assad will take Syria straight to the gallows, and the consequences of that hanging will be felt by 22.5 million Syrians and all of their neighbors for decades to come. Will the United States be able to avert its glance as the tsunami of Syrian state failure washes refugees, terrorists, and weapons of mass destruction over the region?
The Syrian revolution is not America’s to win or lose. The American Revolution was not France’s to win or lose. Yet without the support of France, American independence could have been deferred indefinitely and disastrously. Without American support, the uprising of Syrians against a regime willing to assault their dignity and take their lives in addition to picking their pockets, might have died an early death. Yet now a point of decision has arrived. For the Syrian opposition to form a government offering all Syrians a credible and convincing alternative to the Assad-Makhluf family clique, the United States will have to step up its game. Reluctance to do so is understandable. Failure to do so could be disastrous.
Video of President Obama’s message to the Syrian people http://youtu.be/15Ldu9dZKHY
Videos from the massacre at Boustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo City: activists found dozens of bodies of people who seem to have been summarily executed by pro-Assad militias – The moment of discovery http://youtu.be/mlOSRzKNhZI Pulling the bodies from the river banks http://youtu.be/2inMpA_h6lY , http://youtu.be/O-YtyxA3zxo Collecting the bodies http://youtu.be/KuOTQxd84VQ , http://youtu.be/O4y8gQV4DO8 Angry Locals http://youtu.be/YqyccUDdlCo , http://youtu.be/1mCSVNbijRs Impromptu funeral for one of the over 80 victims http://youtu.be/NDTgCMEV-Mg Bodies lined up in rows http://youtu.be/AfqHEQQuuGs
The Massacre in pictures.
Rebels in Sfeirah, Aleppo, repel an attack on their town by loyalist militias http://youtu.be/YNoRW9RLVHQ destroying a number of vehicles http://youtu.be/AfqHEQQuuGs
Hundreds of defected soldiers arrive in Idlib http://youtu.be/pHn0aqLHWIU
Video produced by the Islamist Ahrar Al-Sham Brigades showing their participation in the liberation of the Central Prison of Idlib http://youtu.be/iI_j-u_PTrc A tour of the compound http://youtu.be/_-Gtr9EY9N8
In Deir Ezzor City, rebels take over the local branch of the political security and free the prisoners http://youtu.be/ZJvRIH4FuKc , http://youtu.be/u--S4nilBAs , http://youtu.be/v3ELTMnBj7E , http://youtu.be/APYr5JZiBtY , http://youtu.be/fYWayv25WLk The dead in here are pro-Assad militias who were killed during the operations http://youtu.be/HWPwHtPn950 And the clashes continue: Destroying a tank http://youtu.be/IPpDIF2j-zE , http://youtu.be/UGMnfRBfkiA Rebels take control of a tank http://youtu.be/zBVoVrhWR9I
Rebels have managed to confiscate some formidable rockets from certain regime storage facilities, especially in Aleppo, but they don’t have any launchers http://youtu.be/7wtVi0KN4yw
A Russian journalist is hit by a sniper and rescued and treated by locals http://youtu.be/VDN0qkJGVPg
Rebels in Karnaz, Hama, use improvised rockets to attack loyalist positions http://youtu.be/vRYV5Girsk0 As the clashes continue http://youtu.be/G_fbsagHnDk and the aerial bombardment http://youtu.be/B12BxJOtptE Regime forces respond with tanks http://youtu.be/-HQ6QIr6t00 , http://youtu.be/pHnQsBn4Pgc
In Damascus, the pounding of the town of Daraya continues http://youtu.be/2TW8BVtaIQU , http://youtu.be/zWws2H9tplA , http://youtu.be/XvCZa8eUa_U