New York: Five years ago, the world seeking a less arrogant US fell in love with President Barack Obama and saw him as a darling peacenik and foil to Texas cowboy George W Bush and his unilateral foreign policies. In his first presidential run, Obama embraced a foreign-policy approach that promised to shore up alliances and build multinational coalitions, to legitimize and carry out military action.
All signs now point to Obama, the Nobel Peace laureate, going it alone without even Britain’s help, in commencing an unconstitutional military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the alleged usage of weapons of mass destruction (in this case sarin gas).
For all the talk about how Bush alienated US allies, he at least invaded Iraq with a "coalition of the willing" of 48 nations to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
This time Britain won't be a partner. Neither the United Nations, the Arab League or any other multilateral institution has authorised the use of military force against Syria. France is the only country so far which has signaled it was preparing for strikes, with President François Hollande pledging on Friday to punish the Syrian regime. Turkey may tag along.
How can Obama be so inept on the foreign policy front that he can’t even get the British to follow him to Syria? Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic skills are being sorely missed — her replacement Secretary of State John Kerry irritated Britain on Friday by referring to France as the "oldest ally" of the US after the French president pledged support for military action against Syria.
“In regards to the potential Syrian conflict, President Obama is about to commit an act of war, without congressional or international approval for the same reason President Bush made the decision to go to war with Iraq,” pointed out The Washington Times.
The US paper pointed out that Bush, however, got congressional approval before launching military action, and a large majority of Americans actually supported the idea of going to war with both Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. The war drums are beating loudly but polls have shown that most Americans don’t favour US military involvement in Syria’s civil war.
The most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken 19-23 August, finds that “Americans strongly oppose US intervention in Syria's civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria's government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed.”
“Obama's willingness to take a lead role — and potentially a solitary one — in attacking the Assad regime has left some members of his party and former administration officials disappointed,” noted The Wall Street Journal.
There is even rebellion in the ranks. Some 54 House Democrats signed a letter that, among other things, cautioned Obama against entering an "unwise war'' and supported the work of the United Nations Security Council "to build international consensus'' in condemning the alleged attack.
When Bush invaded Iraq, Obama made the argument that the president doesn’t have the power to authorise a military attack without an imminent threat to the nation. Where is the threat to the US from Syria for potentially pounding it with Tomahawk cruise missiles? Obama says a US attack would “send a shot across the bow” to the Syrian regime and potentially have a “positive impact on our national security over the long term.”
Instead of a nonsensical national security argument, it’s better for Kerry to stick to calling Assad a "thug and a murderer", and making an emotional case that the US can’t stand by and let a dictator get away with gassing his own people.
Tarnishing the Nobel Peace Prize
Now that Obama is on war footing, his critics say, he should do the decent thing and return his peace prize. What’s terrible for the Indian subcontinent is that after a dozen years of debilitating war and unspectacular gains, Obama is pulling US troops willy-nilly out of fragile Afghanistan, leaving Kabul to deal with a resurgent Taliban. Yet “war-weary” Obama still wants to take on Syria when he hasn’t even finished the job in Afghanistan.
“There’s a growing sense that the Nobel Peace Prize has been tarnished by the award to Obama. You might compare it to extreme grade inflation at this point,” Norman Solomon, whose website RootAction.org launched a petition for Obama to give back the award, told ABC.
When President Obama traveled to Oslo in Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, even he wasn’t sure what he had done to deserve it. “Perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander-in-chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars,” Obama said in his acceptance speech.
It never made sense then, and it makes even less sense now. Obama has less legitimacy and popular support for the proposed “humanitarian” bombing of Syria than almost any US military action in recent history.
Updated Date: Aug 31, 2013 11:20:15 IST