The drums of war are getting louder in Washington. The Obama Administration, facing pressure from war hawks in Congress, has begun drafting plans for air strikes against Syria due to Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the civil war that has ravaged the Middle Eastern country.
During a press conference yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry made the case for action against Assad’s regime, though, as some observers have noted, it sounded like he was talking more to world leaders instead of a skeptical, war weary American public.
“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,” Kerry told members of the press. “By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed doubt that chemical weapons have been used in Syria and opposes any military intervention from outside nations in the ongoing civil war between rebels and Assad’s regime.
The United Nations has yet to verify that chemical weapons were used, though investigators have taken samples from some of the victims of the attack. As U.N. investigators were leaving the hospital, they were fired upon by snipers. The Syrian government has promised to let inspectors visit the site of the attack.
Kerry gave more background on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and explained that President Obama is ready to hold accountable those who use them.
“At President Obama’s direction, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The administration is actively consulting with members of Congress, and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead,” said Kerry. “President Obama has also been in close touch with the leaders of our key allies, and the president will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons.”
“But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” he added. “Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.”
Consulting with Congress is key to any action that the White House wants to take in Syria. While there is some support on Capitol Hill for intervention, the Obama Administration may not be able to find support from NATO, which backed the 2011 air strike campaign in Libya that toppled Moammar Gaddafi, or the U.N. Security Council.
The push for military action, however, is eerily similar to the Bush Administration’s push for war in Iraq, which is a painful reminder for Americans about misguided foreign ventures. Only 9% of Americans support intervention in Syria, which, as the Washington Post noted yesterday, makes the idea less popular than Congress.
But the end goal in Syria is still a question. The Obama Administration has been raising concern about Assad for some time, and they haven’t hid that they want a regime change. Though officials have said that the air strikes will only be against chemical weapons sites, a broader mission in Syria seems incredibly likely.
There is no question that the alleged use of chemical weapons is distressing news, and the ongoing civil war and violence are tragedies. But if President Obama does indeed push regime change, he may well be handing the country over to Islamic radicals who, simply put, aren’t at all friendly to the United States.