Those familiar with Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek know that this fictional leader did not believe in a no-win scenario, however, if Kirk was able to understand what this current leader of the entire free world was up against he would bow to the fact that to attack or not to attack Syria is truly a no-win scenario that doesn’t have a successful outcome.
There has been only one other president in modern times who also faced a similar situation in which a dictator used chemical weapons against his own people. This occurred during the first months of President Ronald Reagan's last year in office. On March 16, 1988, as a part of the ongoing Al-Anfal Campaign Saddam Hussain used chemical weapons of mass destruction on the Kurdish peoples within his jurisdiction in Halabja, Iraqi Kurdistan. Dubbed “Bloody Friday” nearly 5,000 Kurds were killed and up to 10,000 were injured as a result of the Hussain regime's use of chemical weapons and napalm. This attack went on unchecked by the rest of the world for 5 full days and nights throughout Southern Kurdistan (also called Northern Iraq).
What was then President Reagan's response to Saddam Hussain? Public verbal condemnation with no followup from the U.S., the U.N. or any member of NATO or the Arab League other than sanctions that never worked. Basically, Mr. Hussain got away with mass murder on a scale not seen since chemical warfare in World War I or the gassing of Jewish, Polish and Russian civilians by Adolf Hitler in concentration camps before and during World War II. The end result of the world's lack of a sufficient response for Saddam's crime? He was emboldened just a few years later to invade the sovereign nation of Kuwait and lob chemical weapons upon the people of Iran leading to one of the largest campaign's against Iraq that ended with Hussain still firmly in power over his people and a continued threat to the region.
When President George W. Bush (Jr.) invaded Iraq, found and arrested Hussain and his infamous cousin Ali Hussain al-Majiid (aka Chemical Ali) both were finally charged with war crimes against humanity, found guilty and executed by an Iraqi court decision. It took 20 years but justice was finally served in that particular situation. But this justice was overshadowed by opposition from many for Bush's entering into a Congressionally approved war against Iraq.
According to a very presidential sounding address given this past week by Secretary of State John Kerry the act of terror mitigated by Syrian leader Assad against his own people with the use of poison gas and napalm (sound familiar?) that killed nearly 1,500 people in one night, 426 of them small children, deserves a response from the world. Problem is, America’s number one ally, Great Britain voted in Parliament not to support any kind of military intervention into Syria and the UN Security Council has failed to reach a consensus due to the veto power of Russia and China who are supporting the Assad regime in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Other leaders in countries like Australia, New Zealand and particularly strong support from France have called for some kind of response to this latest crime against humanity, but like the UN, no agreement as to the kind of retaliation is coming forth. This leaves the American President Barack Obama, for the first time, out on the limb all by himself.
Fortunately for Mr. Obama he must be ruled and guided by the U.S. Constitution which states that no president can unilaterally make war on another nation without the expressed consent of the Congress. And, although Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel are strongly urging military action against the Assad regime in Syria, they are relenting to a Congress that appears in no hurry to make a decision on the matter.
This places Mr. Obama in a precarious position. He has no real support from the normal allies of America, except the handful mentioned earlier, even the Arab League, which supported an attack on Assad early on, has now backed off its earlier stance and the U.S. Congress, away on their Labor Day break appears to be hedging its bets. Of course they aren't calling it hedging. The House leadership and many within Mr. Obama’s own party are calling their delay for a decision a measured one which will allow the president’s cabinet to put together an adequate intelligence report for the Congress which will give them a thorough understanding of the situation in Syria. Within the last day alone even Obama appears to be backing off a bit by stating that while he feels the U.S. “has an obligation to act on Syria,” the type of response must be a measured one. House Speaker John Boehner has indicated that it could be as late as September 9 before any kind of decision by the Congress will be reached giving Assad nearly two weeks to move his chemical weapons base of operation, his own headquarters and more time to wage even greater sarin gas attacks against those towns and cities harboring the rebels fighting against his regime.
President Obama is truly between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Syria. He insists that unlike his predecessor's response to Hussain in Iraq this conflict with Assad will not end up with “boots on the ground,” or mass bombing of inner city infrastructure in Damascus, already giving Assad a heads up as to what type of response he can expect from an already weakened U.S. position.
I have to somewhat agree with those anti-Assad Syrians. And I must disagree with my hero Captain Kirk - this is a no-win scenario for the president and future American foreign policy in the Middle East.