(Mike Stopa, candidate for Congress, weighs in on Syria. – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)
At the risk of losing my reputation for satire and general snarkiness, I have to say that the debate in Washington over punishing the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people and the granting of authority to President Obama to use military force to do so is thoughtful and edifying. When the Republican party is split into factions that disagree, but do so respectfully, and when the Massachusetts delegation to Congress (they are, for the time being, all D’s) is also split but is leaning toward opposition to their own party’s President, you have to suspect that something serious is going on. The main reason for this, of course, is that no one really has much to gain or lose politically…and so the adult in everyone is free to take over.
Let me first stipulate that the overall fecklessness of the Obama Administration in its dealings with not just Syria but the whole Middle East (oh fudge, the whole world!) has undermined respect for American power and led other nations to question whether we believe in our own ideals, notably the right of all human beings to freedom and dignity.
The problem is that while Mr. Obama may have, throughout his life, indulged with his social circle in geopolitical introspection and critique of America’s role in the world, carrying the Sunday brunch party with the NY Times chatter out onto the world stage has not been helpful. The President can, if he sees fit, apologize for something that America has done, but his speeches are not so much apologies as they are meandering fugues on America’s failings.
That said, in the Syrian situation, let’s face it, no one really has a clue of what we should do. Do we bomb Syria punitively for breaking the no nerve gas rule without any intention of throwing the balance of power to the rebels (who arguably would be worse than Assad)? What does it even mean to bomb one side engaged in a war and not try to help the other side?
Do we then bomb Assad and deliberately throw the war to the rebels? I am personally not convinced that that is so wrong. Yes the Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk would probably take over. But there are secular, freedom loving people in Syria just as there are everywhere. Are the desires of those people so much harder to promote under a chaotic rebel-led government, with the new deal that that implies, than under the Assad regime?
Or are we better off, after all, doing nothing whatsoever militarily, and just pressing on with diplomacy however we can?
Then there is the whole question of whether Congress should grant authority to Obama to carry out whatever military course he chooses to take, over and above the question of what course we think he should take. Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, has opined that Congress is better off (from the perspective of conservatives) giving Obama the authority even if he botches the whole thing.
This is an adult point of view. It is based on the idea that the principal of allowing the President to lead America (as best he can) is more important than the actual ability of the President today, now, to lead America well.
I have, in fact, been impressed with the arguments and voiced considerations of many people in this debate, including even John McCain and (gasp) Elizabeth Warren and (double gasp) Mike Capuano. (Perhaps Warren should get the double gasp there).
This is heartening.
It is a shame that serious and respectful deliberation among our leaders is only really possible in an impossible situation, where America faces a conundrum and where, to first order, no one has political or vested interests.
Because you know, they are all good people, those folks we’ve elected. They are all trying in their own way to make America a better place. And maybe we can lessen the atrocities in the world and maybe we can’t. But it is heartening to see our leaders acting like adults and giving serious thought to the matter.
Mike Stopa is a candidate for Congress in the MA-05 special election to replace Ed Markey. The primary is October 15 and the general election is December 10.