Not much support is developing for the Obama team’s planned strike on Syria

Posted Saturday, Sep. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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greene It’s hard not to draw comparisons as we witness the debate over whether the American people and their representatives in Congress should support President Obama’s plans to take military action in Syria.

The last time these questions were before us, we had a very different team of leaders pursuing the implementation of our country’s foreign policies — especially as those policies involved protecting our homeland and free people across the world from terrorists.

When former President George W. Bush; his vice president, Dick Cheney; his secretary of state, Colin Powell; and his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, stood before us and Congress in 2002 and described the need to take military action against evil men with designs on our destruction, there was no doubt that we were looking at a team with inestimable qualifications to lead.

No peace-loving people wanted war; but, if war was necessary to preserve our nation’s security and that of our allies, these were the men we could trust with that breathtaking assignment.

Bush made it abundantly clear that the United States was not considering a course of half-measures to ensure the success of a military mission.

He described our intentions to attack the enemy with “shock and awe” to demonstrate our resolve to bring an end to the worldwide terrorism threat.

The support to follow their lead in dealing with the dangers we faced was immediate, nonpartisan and international in scope.

Seventy percent of the members of the House of Representatives were joined by 77 percent of their colleagues in the Senate in approving a far-reaching war resolution for the president to mobilize the military powers of our country to the fullest extent necessary to carry out the mission of destroying those who would harm us.

Today we have a very different situation before us.

We have a president who declared, when he was campaigning for the office, that he would not have joined with his fellow Democratic members of Congress in support of Bush’s request.

But, somehow he has decided that our country should intervene in the internal struggles of a terrorist nation next door to the one that he would not have attacked even when the threat they posed was far beyond their own borders.

And, the action he has described is the very essence of half-measures. Send over some missiles and hope that scares the evildoers into ceasing their slaughter of innocent people? Explain to the enemy in specific terms how, when and where such strikes will take place?

The rest of his team is not very convincing in their support for summoning our forces because of their own records of service. Vice President Joe Biden did support Bush’s initiatives, but then he said he didn’t when campaigning along with Obama.

Among the things that Secretary of State John Kerry is best known for is trashing his country when he returned from his service in Vietnam. It’s very hard to imagine a position of attacking Syria for atrocities that are a tiny fraction of what was taking place in Vietnam when several presidents moved our forces into that country in an attempt to restore peace.

Then there is Obama’s secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, who faced a fierce confirmation process centered on still-unanswered questions about his opposition to sanctions against our enemies and the use of force to stop their development of nuclear weapons.

Even the very Obama-friendly Washington Post editorialized strongly against Hagel’s appointment.

It’s no wonder that polls showing a great majority of the American people opposed to striking Syria could be explained by much more than just being war-weary.

There are serious doubts in their minds about whether this team really knows what they are doing.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor who served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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