Obama must do something tangible for Syria
February 8th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Obama must do something tangible for Syria

Editor’s Note: Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, DC. Before joining AEI, she served for ten years as a senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Danielle Pletka.

By Danielle Pletka – Special to CNN

Obama administration officials have labeled the United Nations’ failure to act on Syria as “outrageous” and a “travesty”.  But that’s about all they’ve done about Syrian dictator Basher el Assad’s wanton murder of thousands of innocent Syrians.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the failure of last weekend’s weak Security Council resolution, more than 400 Syrians were killed in ruthless assaults.  They had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  Syrian opposition leaders have begged the international community to act, to do more than convene in contact groups and make rounds on the diplomatic circuit.  But their begging has fallen on deaf ears.

Why care about Syria?

Let’s again rehearse the simple reasons:

– Syria is the soft underbelly of Iran, Tehran’s most important ally, conduit for arms and cash to terrorists.

– Syria has been home to and sponsor of terrorists that have killed American soldiers and non-combatants in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Israel, in the West Bank and more.

– Syria was likely behind the murder of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, an act for which it has paid no price

– Syria has been the godfather to Iran’s terrorist creature, Hezbollah, which has degraded and exploited the Lebanese state (among many other sins).

-Syria’s despotic government has murdered thousands of its own people and will continue to do so until Bashar al-Assad has secured once again his dominion over the Syrian people.

A unique confluence of American moral purpose and America’s strategic interest argue for intervention in Syria. It’s time to do something tangible.

It’s time to start arming the Free Syrian Army, convening the disparate factions of the Syrian opposition and coaching them toward an interim government. It’s time to create safe zones along the border with Turkey and humanitarian corridors to get there.  It’s time to protect those corridors from the air with a limited no-fly zone and establish safe cities.  And it’s time to do all that without benefit of a Security Council resolution, because let’s admit it, the Security Council’s moral authority is nil with Russia and China in permanent seats.

It’s time to begin to work with Turkey and coax the Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan into a position as moral leader in his region.   He may be taking Turkey down a dangerous path, but at the moment, he’s willing to do the right thing on Syria.  Let’s double down on that.

It’s in the U.S. interest; it’s also in Israel’s interest, and worth their while to arrange themselves on the side of Turkey and the Arab League against the loathsome al-Assad.  That doesn’t mean coming out publicly and intervening in Arab affairs, but it does mean beginning to have quiet talks behind the scenes with interested parties.  Indeed, it is fascinating that Israel, which has found itself in weird concert with the Arabs on Libya, Iran and Syria, has failed to exploit that position to improve its regional relations in any way.  One might almost think Israel an indifferent observer to ouster of al-Assad, a sworn enemy.

Syria will have a post-Assad future.  That future could be in the hands of Qatari backed Salafis, Saudi-backed Islamists, or the Western world could have a say.  Sitting on the sidelines will ensure that we have as little as possible.

Here is what President Barack Obama said about Libya in May of last year:

“To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

How does Syria not meet that standard?  For shame on Obama for his hypocrisy, his indifference, and his abdication of American moral and strategic leadership.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Danielle Pletka.

Post by:
Topics: Middle East • Syria

soundoff (547 Responses)
  1. petergibby

    Also someone said something to the effect of "don't waste our tax dollars there, use it to fix our country". We the problems with our country (USA) can't be fixed with money. Too many people wanting something for free. Too few with the character to work and be satisfied with what they have. Jealous of everybody else. Too many politians who want to play God and and get in everybody's business to "fix" things. Sick and can't work–sorry, but count on your family and neighbors. Why is public aid so bad versus neighbor helping neighbor - because it's easy to be a lazy bum when the help is anonimous. Can't do that when people you know try to help you.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
    • BigSir

      Problem with your idea is that poor people would be helping poor paper. Federal assistance is economic redistribution. The only fix needed is that the 1% needs to pay more taxes.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Reply
      • petergibby

        My family was poor for generations. We helped each other. We never considered that some rich person in another town should be the object of our envy and contempt and demand his money be given to us. Plus we had pride. The kind of pride where you'd rather eat beans than beg steak off the goverment. I'd have to be in pretty bad shape to ever consider taking a government handout. A church or neighbor yes because that's a willing gift. Plus I bet you'd have a hard time finding a truely poor person in the US - and when you did, I could show you a whole country of people who'd stand in line to take their place.

        February 9, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  2. Adam

    Pesky Muslim Brotherhood...or whatever they're calling themselves in this country this week.
    At this rate we'll have that mythical caliphate a reality before the year is up!

    February 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  3. Proud American

    Spend $4.00 and send a marine sniper over there. Now they have a chance. I would like to remind everyone here that we would not be America if France did not intervene on our behalf in our revolution.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Reply
    • BigSir

      Sure, the few and the proud...did a great job in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Reply
      • petergibby

        Right on - they did do a good job. We all should be proud of them.

        February 9, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • Rich

      Yes, but France was serving its own interests in doing so. The only interests we have in Syria is to spite Iran and screw with their proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. And war with Syria = war with Iran – they have a mutual defense pact. We have to look before we leap.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
  4. XMarine

    Its time for the coalition of the willing!. This monkey needs to be put down. Wheres George Bush when you need him

    February 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  5. Stay out

    Our fine president is doing the right thing by staying out of the Syrian mess. If the stupid Bush were still president he would have sent in our troops by now. As horrible as it is, the situation in Syria is NOT OUR BUSINESS!
    Were staying out of this one, and I'm proud of our president for doing the right thing.
    I will proudly vote for him in November and you should do the same. Don't vote for a war mongering stupid republican.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Reply
    • Bold Patriot

      I be from Syria and we are being killed over hear... Why does not your president Obama care for the world only his re election right?

      February 8, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Reply
      • just_for_kicks

        Dude, who you tryin to kid with that? You from harlem. "I be from Syria..." yeah, right.....

        February 9, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • norm

      do not FORGET THIS FACT .... , the american civil war in 1863,. it was won by the abolition of slavery, masscres of blacks
      and lynching.... the same is happening in Syria except children and whole families are dying.

      ARE YOU JUST GOING TO STAND BY AND LET THIS HAPPEN.....HOPE NOT ,, THIS IS NOT AMERICA OR
      HOW IT WAS CREATED OR FOUNDED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  6. AreYouSerious?

    All you ever hear is complaints about Obama "getting us involved in another war" or "we need to focus on America and fix our problems." Now he stays out and people complain and write a column on how he needs to do something. Stay out of Syria, we've incurred a great enough cost (financially, but more importantly the lives of our troops) "helping" other counties.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  7. Bold Patriot

    Go and help them crazy people in the middle east no more!! When will you stupid Americans get it thru your head, that those people hate your guts and want you all dead!!! Will you send your sons to die for their cause?

    February 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  8. Bold Patriot

    Dear leader president Obama u must help the Syrian people who are being murderd over here, I'm hiding in a shyt kitchen writting this and beggin for you mighty assistance in our matter... for the love of god allmighty please stop campaigning and do what is right mr Oburma..

    February 8, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Reply
  9. glu

    Fk Syria

    February 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  10. The Dude

    We can fight the Syrian government now and save some lives.....or we can fight them when we go to war with Iran,
    because even if Obama doesnt attack Syria's military over this, we will still be drug into it when Israel strikes Iran over their nuclear program this spring. Then the fit will hit the shan all over the middle east. What I wonder is, what willl Russia and China do if we step in now?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:03 am | Reply
    • Bold Patriot

      What will they do? They will launch all their nukes on your country at the same time and you will die!! Understood sir!!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:08 am | Reply
      • The Dude

        Sure.......give it up butt wipe!
        Go troll some other place.......no one here is paying you any attention.

        February 9, 2012 at 12:18 am |
      • just_for_kicks

        What nukes>

        Let 'em try. Send one nuke our way (Smoke 'em if you got 'em) and I guaran-freakin-tee you, Syria/Iran will be turned into a sheet of glass.

        Got any Windex?

        February 9, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  11. Bold Patriot

    I think we should help all the poor misunderstood muslims over there... Send in the bombers with Nuclear tipped missle and end their miserable existence all of them!!! The world woud be free from their crazy religion and no more conflicts would drag us into another war over there!!! Nuke em ALL NOW!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:04 am | Reply
    • just_for_kicks

      Now you're talkin!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:58 am | Reply
  12. Bold Patriot

    Times is a wastin let's go kill some more arabs and muslims... When you get the chance you must answer the call!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:10 am | Reply
  13. Hans

    The world cannot stand by and see the mass murder of anyone. We need to step up and stop this if it means we need to get involved in a war or not. It harsh its scary, it will involve lives but mankind cannot allow this kind of injustice to occur when all people are asking for is to be free.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:40 am | Reply
  14. Bob

    Syria is much different than Libya. Syria has a better trained, equipped, and larger army. Syria has support from Russia and China. Military intervention in Syria could be disasterous to the U.S. Without a strong international consensus, including Russia and China, we should stay out of Syria.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
    • just_for_kicks

      "we should stay out of Syria."

      You're right, sir. We can launch a few thousand nukes from the Med and the IO. No need to put boots on Syrian soil

      February 9, 2012 at 1:00 am | Reply
      • guest

        so let me get this straight. so many of you are saying that in order to save the women and children and innocents being killed by Assad, we should blow up their country?? Gee, can we do that without killing women, children and other innocent people?

        February 9, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Idrees

      The dictatorships of China and Russia who repress their own people are not going to be involved.

      Syrian military is not well equipped. T-72 tanks have lots of weaknesses (look at how Chechen destroyed them), Syrian air force has defunct airplanes, plus there are a lot of Syrians who will defect from military after a no-fly zone according to high ranking defectors.

      There has to be a coalition of the willing like in Kosovo and Bosnia.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:41 am | Reply
  15. The_Mick

    My first knee-jerk instinct is that we should get involved in Syria. But then I sit back and think: what will be the long term result besides the fact Syrians will hate us despite what we do for them, just like Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps were better with an unstable Syria that has to worry more about its own citizens than messing with Lebanon.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:00 am | Reply
  16. rex edie

    apparently ...obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't..... actually .... we need to get out of all these "bs" counties and let them sort it out...including Israel.... if we are all going to hell.... americans might as well enjoy the benefits of what little money is left after all the war mongers have depleted the accounts....on fake wars...so defense manufactures can make money....and use the pentagon to justify it...

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
  17. rex edie

    speaking of mass murder.....what happens ....once private contractors (who are above the law in foreign countries) start running america's police departments...and eventually...decide its necessary to shoot anyone who is homeless and penniless... or looks like an undesirable ...i know it seems far fetched.... but so did going to war with iraq....until somebody dummied up false information to legitimize it....watch yer back....!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:16 am | Reply
    • skwirrl

      It will happen soon. But you need not fear we've already tracked your IP address. You will be one of the first.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:42 am | Reply
  18. Belinda

    Some of these responses are very, very sad and do not realize that their comments are the same spirits in the murders in Syria. If none of us have a solution for the problem, PRAY.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:05 am | Reply
    • Fred

      I sense your anguish, and wish people would just stick to giving their comments without criticizing comments made by others. But, maybe they need to vent for psychological reasons.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:27 am | Reply
  19. Scott

    It's really easy to tisk-tisk Obama for a lack of action do far, but measured, thoughtful actions are often better for our self-interest. If it's so easy to go in and take action, why has no other government done it either? There may be no perfect solution. Yes, people are dying. People are always dying in Mideast violence. We have to decide what will help, and what will just inflame mideast hatred of us. I believe action is warranted. But the president has intelligence we don't, so let's be slow to wag our fingers.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:18 am | Reply
  20. Idrees

    America had a revolution.

    Countries like Spain, France and the Dutch republic helped America.

    Yes the fighting was done by revolutionaries, but they did get a lot of equipment from those countries.

    USA's economic problem is going to be solved soon, Obama is creating millions of jobs already.

    No one is calling for American boots, but arming the opposition is an option. And no they won't turn on you later, in Afghanistan, most of the Mujahideen were pro-American.

    USA must and I believe it will help the Syrian people fight the tyrant Bashar the Pig.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:37 am | Reply
    • Concerned American

      Idrees, stop comparing the alliance between western nations with any co-operation between the west and any muslim country, which is consumed by ideological and religious hatred for the west. Even after America helped Kosovo, one of its own attacked American soldiers in German soil. We hear that Osama Bin Laden was a created by American when they intervened in Afghanistan during the incursion of the Soviet Union. SO, it appears that anytime America intervenes in the affairs of a muslim, something evil is birthed. Any lesson learned so far? Ask the Arab League for help, their fellow muslims will not curse them after the war is won, but America WILL definitely be insulted

      February 9, 2012 at 6:37 am | Reply
  21. skwirrl

    China and Russia are propping the regime up because Syria is the resting place of all the Russian and Chinese WMD that Saddam shipped out in the trucks days before the war. It exposes them.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:40 am | Reply
    • Rich

      I think the WMD were from us. That's why we went in. We found them and destroyed them, too. But we couldn't SAY it, because they came from the US – better to just run with the narrative that we never found any WMD. We went into Iraq to clean up our own mess we never should have made in the first place.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  22. Idrees

    I hope there is a lot more of good hearted Americans.

    Personnal story : I once saw an adolescent defending a small guy from being beaten by another teen. He was suspended and punished by his parents for that.

    He did the right thing, yet he was punished at the beginning. At the end, people realized that the bully was the bad one and he received many thanks and goodwill.

    My point is America is being seen as "evil" for Iraq in Afghanistan or even Libya, but the world will realize that America is a force of Good.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:46 am | Reply
    • skwirrl

      The world will never realize it because it doesn't fit their desire to see it. They prefer to be jealous.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:48 am | Reply
    • Fred

      I hope you're right.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:31 am | Reply
  23. Concerned American

    stop comparing the alliance between western nations with any co-operation between the west and any muslim country, which is consumed by ideological and religious hatred for the west. Even after America helped Kosovo, one of its own attacked American soldiers in German soil. We hear that Osama Bin Laden was a created by American when they intervened in Afghanistan during the incursion of the Soviet Union. SO, it appears that anytime America intervenes in the affairs of a muslim, something evil is birthed. Any lesson learned so far? Ask the Arab League for help, their fellow muslims will not curse them after the war is won, but America WILL definitely be insulted

    February 9, 2012 at 6:39 am | Reply
  24. War for Peace

    If ever in our era there was a righteous fight to wage war over I would think taking down the al-Assad regime is it in my opinion. The political infighting between the heavy powers of the world in the UN council is irresponsible and is only perpetuating the slaughter taking place in Syria right now. I for one would be willing to fatigue up and take the good fight to al-Assad's front door. For the peoples sake I truly hope immediate outside military action is taken against the current Syrian regime

    February 9, 2012 at 8:02 am | Reply
  25. Arcsin

    Have to disagree with the article. It's a horrific situation, but we need the backing of a coalition of countries and a solid plan of action if we're going to get involved.

    It's not as if we can just go traipsing in with doctors and humanitarian aid and just do the right thing easily and Assad will just be fine with that and wave us in. Meanwhile all the other countries and half of this one will be complaining that we're trying to run the world and flouting the UN.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:03 am | Reply
  26. BennyC

    We should do one thing and one thing only, target the murderous president of Syria and take him out and then the killing would end.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
  27. Mike

    Yes let's help Syria put in a new government ... It worked out so well in Libya where Doctors without Borders recently pulled out of due to the sickening level of violence by the new "Transitional National Authority" (Doesn't that sound like a nice friendly group) that we helped install. Sources said they make Ghadafi look like a boy scout. oh why am i even ranting... syria is tied to Iran and Israel is enemies with Iran, so of course we'll end up intervening. Watch ... you'll see and you'll pay also. Ain't no way you or I can stop it. Here's one of many cites btw :http://news.yahoo.com/msf-quits-prisons-libya-city-over-torture-172819628.html

    February 9, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • Mike, you ignorant American

      I have been there twice since the change. I have no idea what Dr. Without Boarders encountered, but it was reasonably clam. Do you by chance know how many YEARS it took to establish a peace after the US revolution? Get real and give them a chance.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:14 am | Reply
  28. Let's be Clear

    While it was not a US creation, Libya had a new governement in place externally organizing the overthrow and at least nominally preparred to govern. It was visibly organized and able to attract both financial and technical resources within the Gulf. Just look at the story in the NYT about how they commandeered the national telecoms network and moved the switching to Malta. The was not Chalabi formed mess, these were thoughtful passionate Libyans.

    Until that exists in Syria, all we have is a mess to aviod.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:11 am | Reply
  29. RonPaul2012

    I say U.S. has no business over there. Of course, Obama opened his big mouth and gave the rebels vocal support, and helped the same in Libya. The result is that 1) we look like wimps because we won't put are troops where our mouth is at, and 2) we have blood on our hands by encouraging the uprising so we can now watch as they are slaughtered. Obama went into Libya because he knew it would be "easy" – it would give him a "victory" without costing American lives. But he's too yellow to take on Syria, because it might actually be an all-out war.

    We should have stayed completely out to begin with. Just quit buying oil from them and then it won't matter.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:13 am | Reply
    • DCBuck

      We need to have a foreign policy that has one overriding goal: does it help/protect U.S. interests? This is something that Ron "Neville Chamberlain" Paul doesn't get.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply
  30. Lex

    Bill Cllnton stood by and did nothing about genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia. That was evil and wrong but he got away with it. The time is ripe for the world to proactively deal with mass murder and do what needs to be done to stop it. Why?

    1. Its the right and moral thing to do.

    2. Once the world-wide value is that genocide and mass murder will not be condoned, the bad guys will get the messageand won't do it because they will know that doing it will be, at minimum,, mean they lose and may be killed or executed.

    3. The "good guys" need to learn that you can't stand idly by and condone evil.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • Kevin D.

      Your comments re: Clinton are not really true so much as they are untrue.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:55 am | Reply
      • Rich

        Sooooo.... you're saying Clinton led us into Rwanda to stop the murder of 2 million people? And in which completely erroneous textbook did you read that? We DIDN'T go into Rwanda – we had no interest there. We went into Bosnia eventually, and that didn't really turn out so well.

        February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
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