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 (548 Responses)
  1. SJK

    I agree with D_NYC. In fact, if we wait long enough, maybe they'all just kill one another off which will be a blessing for Israel, most certainly for Lebanon, and the world in general.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  2. ethandy

    President Obama is hatching something. I think he's palming an ace on this.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  3. cigarman

    This is for everyone who wants to go to war anywhere. Go ahead and join the service, go to training and sacrifice your own life for nothing. Do not send our young people into another useless war. The United States is Monetarily Broke due to The Republican Wars, Tax cuts for the very rich, and a unfunded Prescription Plan. All Chicken Hawks should just go on over to Syria and have a grand old time.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  4. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    It's best that we keep out of Syria and let the Arab countries, Russia & China handle the mess. Either way we will be blamed by Islamic supporters, both inside & outside incl. CNN's own Mr.Fareed Zakaria, Dean ObeidALLAH, as also (distinguished???) Profs. Mohammed Ayoob and Juan Cole of Univ. of Michigan, and Ethan Casey of the Huffington Post etc.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  5. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Frankly we don't have the money to waste on any more such misadventures when we are $15T in debt.

    Let the rich Arab countries foot the bill.

    Our intervention in Iraq was a disaster, unseating the only secular leader in the Muslim world, and a huge bulwark against Iran with a govt. that is much more friendly to Iran than us! Forget the plight of the Iraqi Christians and other minorities!

    We will never be sure of who will replace Al Assad. What if an even more fundamentalist govt. takes over just as it's happening all over N.Africa, to the utter glee of Islamic supporters like CNN's own Mr.FAREED ZAKARIA, Dean ObeidALLAH, Prof.Mohammed Ayoob, Juan Cole, Imam Rauf, Rashad Hassan and others.

    Let's be realistic please!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
    • Fred

      Concur totally.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:02 am | Reply
  6. ZorakLives

    "American moral purpose"? Don't fool yourself into believing that countries are moral agents. Countries serve their self-interests, they don't go out in search of the moral high ground. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam have shown us what happens when we try to tell other people how they should live their lives. Let them decide for themselves, whether by ballots or bullets.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  7. You just don't get it

    Doesn't any posters here realizes America is still waging a "War on Terrorism"? Stated by two US Presidents – "we will go anywhere they are hiding and take them out".
    1. Obama has proven we can change a failed dictatorship w/o spilling American blood. (Libya)
    2. Syria (and Iran) leaders are both proclaimed terrorist sponsors.
    3. Why is not in America's best interest to take out terrorist sponsors?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  8. arcee

    Im sorry but we as HUMAN BEINGS do have a responsibility to help protect anyone in need. The values of this new world is going to destroy all mankind. Regardless of what one might think, we are only here for a short period. In the end we will all answer why we let our brothers, and sisters suffer this horrible injustice. I would rather stand and fight to protect these people, than to be a whisper in the wind. I would gladly givr my life to save anothers. This slaughter makes us no better than wild animals.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • Lonake

      Then ship yourself over to Syria. One way ticket.
      I am proud of this administration adhering to UN decision to not step in. And I have China & Russia to thank for that.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  9. Jimmy Carter

    أوباما هو المسيح الدجال!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  10. Bullington

    Last weeks sermon was "we can't please everyone but we can please God. By doing whats right"
    We have plenty of drones for Pakistan, surly we can spare one for Assad?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  11. D_NYC

    SERIOUSLY... Hi... For those of you who think it is our obligation to intervene and help the people in Syria, I have news for you... We will spend the money, sacrifice American lives, put ourselves in the middle of yet another worthless war, and guess what we will get out of it? NOTHING...

    These people do not stand for the values we stand for, these people will spit in our faces if they could, these people do not know the meaning of the words tolerance, respect and shame, not even among them, forget about Jews, Christians, Atheist, Mormons or ANY OTHER religious group.

    For them we Americans are just a group of infidels and imperialist who deserve the worst. So asking us for help is quite ridiculous. I have nothing against the Islam or Muslims, but they do have a lot against us and sadly their mentality is backwards: you are with us or you are against us... they do not believe in a society we all can co-exist and live based on our own beliefs...

    And it is sad, very sad indeed, that as of today we still have people in our country who don't realize the threat that this represents as more and more and more of them keep coming here.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  12. GIUK

    There is no reason why the US should not go into another ME nation to “bring Democracy” to it, and make a complete mess of the job…not while there is one drop of American soldier blood left to spill. Those objecting to doing so do not appreciate the responsibility the US bares being the only remaining super-know-it-all on Earth.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  13. Dan Allen

    Given how much the mainstream media has lied to you all over the last twenty years, I want to clue you in to something:


    February 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  14. Joe Emerson

    When pro-democracy people bravely demonstrated in Iran the U.S. did NOTHING, result: Iran advances to nuclear bombs, missiles that can reach the U.S. etc. Elementary logic says if the U.S. also does nothing to help brave pro-democracy people in Syria the U.S. can imagine that Syria or its buddy Iran will do nothing. At a minimum send the people arms to have a fighting chance. It won't cause a civil war for that has already started..... Another point, since the U.N. doesn't work due to Russia and China vetoing what is pro-democracy efforts, let's start another group called United Nations For Peace And Democracy consisting of proved democracies only.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  15. Boris

    The same methods are used to justify military attacks against Syria. Few years ago, the same western leaders justified attacks against Iraq and Afghanistan based on lies. Couple of months ago, it was Kadhafi. Today is the president of Syria. Iran will be served too after Syria.
    Like Libya, Syria is being attacked by rebels armed by some western governments. The plan to destabilize the middle- East has been established a long time ago. Popular channels like CNN usually play a big role in developing a propaganda to prepare people's mind and make them accept military actions. The destablilization of the middle East and other countries has many goals. The first goal is to possess the natural resources of those countries/regions. The second goal is to strengthen or install political influence. Lastly and the most important one is the establishment of a New World order. However, other nations like Russia and maybe China are well aware of this plan. The country for now that is able to military resist against Israel, US and its allies is Russia. We know that Syria and Iran have strong relations with Russia. Installing western puppets in Syria and Iran will definitely weaken Russia and make it more vulnerable.
    This is not about democracy or humanitarian actions. The same thing has been said about Libya but Nato killed thousands of civilians and installed radical muslims and members of Al-Qaida to power. The UN, US....etc are all condemning the Syrian government but it is ridiculous. Israel regularly kills Palestinians and ignores the UN's decisions. Why don't they condemn Israel? The US went to Iraq and killed thousands of civilians in spite of the UN disapproval. As I know, nobody condemned the US government. In Ivory Coast, the US and its allies backed Ouattara, a man who has blood of thousands of Ivorians on his hands. US and its allies promote democracy through words but support terrorism, genocides, crimes against humanity..etc through military and political actions. Those devilish and selfish actions may lead the world to another World War. The world will be a better place the day western civilizations/nations stop developing a superiority complex.
    Obama is the biggest scam of the 21st century.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
    • Onikami

      OBAMA must do something. that is obvious, BUT WHAT? if he attacks he draws fire from so many corners its like facing a minigun firing squad. if he waits he draws condemnation from his populace and allies. there is really no middle ground. this decision could cost him his political career/election/life. if america wants to keep walking the middle road it's starting look little bleak. have any of you thought about what he could do? not just jump in guns blazing, but actually come to terms with the rest of this rowdy world? is there a way out? tune in tomorrow and find out! jeez it's as bad a soap opera! how come Alassad doesn't ask for help from conventional allies? why is are we even bothering with a region that's outside of general way? because everybody should have a say in how their lives are run. what laws should govern how they live. they should not have to live in fear of their lives because some government/religion/ideal tells them they have to live that way and they think they have a better fairer way.is that wrong?if they are allowed no voice this is what happens they rebel. syria's current tactic is kill and cover-up.if they were in the right could that not come to the light? the fact that they are not tells enough. what we know is enough to act but what can we do when other forces can afford to wait?what can we do when those forces say "NO!! sit still! we have other plans!". we are coming real close to a tie breaker that could spell the future of mankind. we have brushed it. we have heard it's whisper. will it turn into a roar? who is good and who is evil? these are the waters that obama is currently treading. right now something brilliant from the areas where man first started to come together IE the middle east would help alot. in order to live in a world where man lives together in peace and passes their legacy to the stars we are asking for a miracle. for just how dire these times are for reference I'm an atheist! ireally don't want to go up in ash for someone elses beliefs. and i don't want anyone else dying for mine. but i'll fight for few a things in this world and peace between me and my neighbors is one of them.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Reply
  16. Lonake

    Danielle Pletka, you are a disgrace.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  17. Justice786

    The US is the world's leader in democracy and we are the most powerful nation on earth. As such, it is our responsibility to promote democracy whenever a country is being pulverized for simply wanting freedom and democracy. We are slowly winning hearts in the Arab and Muslim world, and helping Syria will stay long in the memory of the Syrians and the Arab Word. Do the right. Obama. Help the Syrians defeat tyranny.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  18. Alan

    "I don't have a globalist agenda, just doing what's right versus doing what's wrong. If you saw someone in need, would you just says sorry, I don't want to interfer with you?..."

    You're making the analogy of, say, a person getting mugged on the street, and you see it, you should do something to help. Well lets say that mugger has 2 buddies with 9mm's on their belt, would you be so inclined to help if you only had a knife, or mace?

    American politicians see past the surface issue of the syrian killings, and understand the implications of military actions to syrian govermental allies intervention.

    In short, we would like to do something to stop the killings ASAP, but we realize we cant fight off China, Russia, Iran and Syria all at the same time because we decided to bomb Syria for being bad. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

    February 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • toadears


      February 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • Mike Schmeckpeper

      That is completely preposterous. No nation would lift a finger if a multi-national force forces syria to stop the shelling. China and Russia would not dare I guarantee you that with 100% certainity. "We're going to risk the existence of our nation, and our planet, because we feel so strongly that this dictator has the right to slaughter his opponents".
      get a grip with reality dude.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Reply
      • Sam Cohen

        The bottom line is foreign terrorists, probably Mossad, have been killing Syrians. Then the Jewish CNN media blames Syrians (Assad) for it. Typical cheap Jewish false flag terrorism. the world knows. The Jewish lie machine is $15 Trillion dollars in debt and sinking. Borrowing money it doesn't have to destabilize nations around the world who refuse to pay taxes to Jews.

        February 12, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  19. Mike

    As far as I'm concerned, this article is useless. I can come up with a million evil things that Syria has done. This article a) completely fails to state any principle, whatsoever, that can be used to judge whether or not we should intervene in a particular country and b) completely fails to mention a single downside, a single negative repercussion that might arise for the US or for Syria or for anybody because of intervention.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Reply
    • Erik

      Agreed, Mike. If we go to Syria then where do we stop? Half of the African continent has brutal dictators, but the difference is (allow me to state the obvious)....oil. On a side note: It's pretty funny that conservatives were bashing Obama for our involvement in Libya, but now they're demanding the exact same thing in Syria....Watch them all flip flop if we end up going...classic example of what's wrong with this country.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  20. Bill T

    Let's stay out of Syria. Look at all the other places we have intervened, to no good result.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Idrees

      America intervened in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya and it was a good result.

      The world did not start 10 years ago, America did a lot of things in the world for the past... um.... 100 years ?

      February 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
      • Tahir

        Don't compare Libya and Kosovo. In Kosovo people were killed having no weapons in hands and in Libya Gaddaffi killed people with weapons in hand. In Syria people took weapons in hands and are being killed by Government and Kosovo was not like that.If you tok weapons in hand against your government then you are no longer innocent. If people protesting at Wall Street took weapons in hand, US government will also kill them. Person protesting with weapons is always a terrorist.

        February 17, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  21. Rajiv Shaw

    One Predator with one Hellfire missile will be enough!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  22. JTampa

    Syria has nothing we need. Let the government keep killing its own people. It will serve as a reminder to other Middle East nations why they need to embrace the West. Russia and China are Syrian backers and its clear that life means nothing to them. A hard core bloodbath will isolate Syria and drive other nations into the arms of the west. Assad is irrational. His egotism and megalomania won't let him make rational and pragmatic decisions. Its all over for him anyway.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  23. wesb2lit

    It seems like CNN has an anti-Muslim agenda! They let people post super racist comments constantly, and when I try to respond, going over each comment with a fine toothed comb to make sure that there's no cursing, name calling, etc., only about 5% of my them actually get posted. Let's see if this one does.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  24. toadears

    to Jay von hettlingen... answer: because we are sick of it all. We help them, they hate us. We don't help them, they call us inhumane. Make your ridiculous Muslim minds!!

    February 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  25. RacistBigot

    Why not excise this guy by cesarian section? He's kind of a boil anyway. Then the mother country can put him up for adoption for the best price. Look at it like a fun auction. This guy, his buddies, and anyone associated with him now knows that if they don't get him in a cage, then his children will pay the father's price. No way out now....their entire bloodlines will vanish from the face of the earth. In the end, the people win. This time, when the people get to him, he'll probably be dragged a few miles by horse to his bloody end.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  26. Otheym

    Americans sure have bad memories. Iraq was also a 'war of liberation' against a middle east despot who killed thousands of his people. How did that 'help' turn out? A hundred thousand innocents were killed with our 'help'.
    The war in Libya destroyed the country and turned it into a cesspool of anarchy and bloodshed.
    The idea that military intervention can stop another country's civil war is madness.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • Idrees

      In Iraq, people were not protesting against the government.

      In Syria, people are protesting against the government.

      In Syria, America will be greeted as liberators like in Kosovo (a muslim country).

      February 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply
      • Tahir

        In Iraq people were not protesting because US government did not realize earlier what is the best way to de-stabilize a country before attacking. Syrians are protesting because American made this policy and US government did not realize this tactic for Iraq.There was no American policy for protests in Iraq so there were no protests in Iraq and in Syria USA made the policy of protests so people are protesting. Muslims are not so clever.In Libya USA tried the policy of bombing many times but was not successful but the policy of using their own people is learned by Americans in Afghanistan so they used this in Libya and now in Syria. See what they did in Afghanistan to remove Taliban government easily.

        February 17, 2012 at 4:48 am |
  27. NorCalMojo

    I bought this neocon spin and supported the Iraq war.

    Not again.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Since you learned your lesson wisely, let us hope you don't buy into those crazy, psycho talk of the Repukes from here on.

      Also, take this note from a guerrilla warfare warrior. If you start a War; the decision to end it will NOT be yours to decide. Iraq is a typical example.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  28. Kenjiro Shoda

    With one war finished and another in the draw down stages, it would be a real violation of valid judgement for the USA to intervene militarilly in Syria. Haven't we learned a lesson from two wars begun by a President who didn't know when to mind his own business and keep quiet? Now that our economy is improving, the last thing we need is another big military adventure urged on by another bunch of trigger happ flag waving Bubbas. Whatever good is happening to our economy would sink in a heartbeat if we got involved in another war.....guaranteed.
    I don't know about you, but I don't want my slowly inproving investments to sink again for the sake of Syria.
    It's their problem. Let them deal with it...or not. But it's their problem ..not ours.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply
    • pat carr

      I agree, but sadly there's so many fools who didn't learn from the last 2 disastrous wars.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Reply
    • Fred

      I hadn't thought about my investments until I read your comment, but I agree with you. I don't want mine to suffer either. And, our country needs to improve so that more folks can get back to work.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:51 am | Reply
  29. Mike Schmeckpeper

    Obama needs to do the following, right now.

    Call the other heads of state in this world, and ask them "who is in". A multi national force needs to stop the dictator's murdering of innocent men, women and children immediately! This is the 21st century people. Anyone that stands back and thinks it's okay to watch civilians be slaughtered doesn't need to be commenting or advising on American foreign policy. Those people need to take a look in the mirror and do a lot of reflecting.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Reply
    • Idrees

      I agree with you.

      People are afraid of an Islamist government, but as a Muslim let me tell everyone that Morocco and Turkey has been having Islamist government and it was a friend of Israel and is a friend to America.

      This idea that Al Qaeda is going to take over is nonsense. Al Qaeda is a problem for Muslims too, they will take care of it if it is present.

      People have lost a sense of humanity.

      America must act in Syria.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Reply
      • Robert

        If we act; We all die! get it?

        February 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
      • brown

        we did the same in libya and terrorists are using that as a recruiting tool. muslims called us for help and we did and now they hate us for doing it. its better for America to stay out especially when their is nothing to gain and all to lose. Let other arab nations step. what are they waiting for?

        February 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
      • ﺶCHEﺶ

        Hey Jew; are you hiding behind your tiny computer as usual like a coward as you have always been in your underwear and wanting the US to fight your battles directly or indirectly?
        I bet you're waiting for your usual Pres. Obama's jewish welfare checks in the mail so that you can build your settlement in israel?

        February 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Z

      It's hard to want to intervene and bring 'democracy and freedom' when people here can't even get healthcare and are forced into poverty. We all know the end of the day, even if we roll in spent trillions and saved them in the blink of an eye they'd start shooting at us. It's just not worth it.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.