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.

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Topics: Middle East • Syria

soundoff (547 Responses)
  1. Lauren Herda-Himes

    Yes, we as Americans believe in intervening and bringing Democracy and freedom from oppression to the world. (As long as there are natural resources to gain control over) And the UN what a damn joke!!!! How is China and Russia allotted the privilege to even sit on this council, let alone wield Vito power? America had no problem breaking treaties and going against the UN vote to invade Iraq yet we are so rigid now on not stepping on the few fascists toes that inhabit an organization that has a mission statement pledging their responsibility to uphold and encourage the betterment of the quality of life for everyone, no matter what country they reside. IGOs and their b.s. hypocrisy. UN is the modern League Of Nations and just like it, it will see it's end.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  2. Robert

    We must act? This will ignite WW111, Yea, good idea. Let them kill each other, They hate the U.S, anyway

    February 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
  3. CAL USA

    Fascinating to see how many chickenhawks we still have after the Iraq fiasco. How many do you suppose are willing to put their boots or those of their children on the ground, or to pay more taxes to cover the cost? I'll bet they're all in favor of military action as long as it with other people's kids and other people's money.....

    February 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      Yes – this Danielle is a true warrior sitting in her conference room discussing policy with other wonks. She is highly trained and certified to drive others' children into a quagmire like Syria. I want her immediate family and all her cousins stepping off the first Chinook that lands in Damascus..

      February 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
    • pat carr

      Yes the chickenhawks infect this board. What part of "broke" do they not understand? If they feel so strongly let them pay for it themselves

      ". I want her immediate family and all her cousins stepping off the first Chinook that lands in Damascus.." I agree.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Reply
  4. Jeff

    Danielle is rattling the sabre and your sons and daughters will be at the blade's edge. How easy it is for people to send other people's children off to wa...particularly people in think tanks like Danielle.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  5. brown

    dont even think about getting involved in Syria Obama. We did the same in Libya and Iraq and they hate us for it. What is other arab countries doing? Why is it always up to America to do things when they hate us so much? Its their internal problem let them deal with it. We have our own problems.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  6. Taylor

    I believe we should intervene, but not at the moment. In order to be a benefit to other countries than we ourselves must be able to support our self. Perhaps after the recession lifts more and we have a solid foundation back, than we’ll have the money to support our troops leaving again.
    Now, I’m not saying that an immense amount of troops are going to be sent out to Syria just like Iraq, BUT, I am saying that it will cost a lot of money. The world runs on money, war, and the desire to harness all the power possible. President al-Assad has a fear that he won’t be able to keep his power for long. Little does he know that attacking his own country in such a manner is actually the exact thing that’s going to tear him down.
    “Revenge begets revenge. Hate begets hate”.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  7. DB

    When the world tells the US for ten years to stay out of other countries problems. This is the result you get.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Reply
    • Rich

      Exactly. Give the world 10 years of no US interference, and let them reap what they sow. Not our problem.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  8. edsr of Dallas

    Send Obama there with a field pack and a .45 pistol and a couple of grenades....it is about time HE SERVED this country in the military that he PURPOSELY avoided in the past!

    February 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Hey pervert, Pres. Obama was NOT even born or was in baby diapers when the draft was adopted. Stop giving STD to to your grannies. Will ya?

      How come ALL you psycho crazy GOPers are so uneducated, the dumbest humans on earth, retarded at birth, bigots, ignorant, chronic brain freeze wing nuts, human robots, imbecilic and extremely illiterate?
      Come on spill it! GOP retarded wingnut.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
      • petergibby

        I have to agree the Dallas person's comment was kind of dumb, but your not sounding so bright either!!

        February 10, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  9. Ted Ryder

    I say we help them but differently than we've ever done before. Let's not help them rebuild. Let's not help them educate their children or establish a decent government. What we need to do is F@#UCK them up beyond belief–more unimaginable than anyone can fathom. Let's destroy every building within a 20 mile radius of where their top leaders are. This way, people will actually respect our POWER again. That's fine if you want to hold on to some ancient dictatorship but if you attack your people or push the US, you will see our real ruthless power!

    LET'S UNLOAD HELL ON THEM THEN LEAVE IN TWO DAYS!!

    February 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply
    • Melissa N.

      Ted, there is something very wrong with you. You realize that there are innocent people and children there as well, right? If so, then you, sir, are an ignorant piece of trash, and perhaps someone should take YOU out.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Reply
      • Ted Ryder

        Ok then. You're right. Let's coddle them and send in our troops for 5 years, rebuild them and get thousands of our soldiers killed, 100s of thousands of their men, women and children and spend billions upon billions of your money. Either that or we send a message and don't have to worry about other wars for 50 years or killing millions through attrition like we have been. Take your pick.

        February 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  10. Retired Floridian

    Excellent analysis and i concur completely. Perhaps, we can await regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to declare their open support for the SRA and civilian patriots and annouince they will begin arming and supplying them. Thbat will give the U.S. and Europe the "go ahead" to join in if some countries directly involved take the lead,,,

    February 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  11. Rich

    From the article comparing Syria and Libya: "How does Syria not meet that standard?"

    1. Libya has oil – Syria does not.
    2. Ghadaffi was stupid enough to ANNOUNCE that he was going to rub out a city. al Assad has not.
    3. Syria has a mutal defense pact with Iran. Libya did not.
    4. Syria has terrain that makes it more difficult to attack than Libya was.

    I'm probably missing a few other differences, but those are pretty key.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Reply
    • Tahir

      Permission of Israel is also a factor in decision which the most important one, and you missed it. Very sad very bad.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
  12. ﺶCHEﺶ

    First you muslims don’t like anyone who doesn’t practice your so-called crazy religion.
    You muslims should ask your so-called muslim brotherhood, al-qaeda, taliban and all the mohamed crazy fighters to save your Syrian brothers and sisters and leave USA and Pres. Obama ALONE. Americans are SICK and TIRED of fighting on your behalf yet; will kidnap and kill American Aid workers after the battle is won. You muslims think America parents or love ones including we people of good will don't feel the pains when our love ones are kidnapped and killed by your crazy lunatic muslims with impunity. A muslim is like a cobra. It will deadly turn on you in flash when you least expected. Let this Blood bath run for awhile to bring some sanity in the muslim World.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  13. modar

    we need to act fast before unstability is created in this area which can damage the whole area

    February 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Reply
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Who the heck are "WE" you refer to?
      Speak for yourself. Will ya?

      February 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  14. Jack

    "WE " means the guys who are waiting for WW3D :):)

    February 9, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  15. D_NYC

    WHAT? We must do NOTHING for Syria... Why should we do something to benefit Syria when hundreds of civilians danced, cheered, clapped, sang and burned American flags in Damascus while the World Trade Center was collapsing with 3000 people inside... SCREW YOURSELF SYRIA!
    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 forget things so quick and who don't realize the threat that this represents as more and more and more of them keep coming here.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Reply
    • SoCal81

      Very good points you have. Bottom line, the middle east would rather see their innocent children die at the hands of their own rather than foreign "westerners" help them. These people have no respect for life and there values are not the same as ours. We cheerish our babies and see our children as our future and want the best for them. Unfortunately, they use their young boys as accessories to warfare and we all know what they think of women and girls.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  16. RJ Connors

    This is a challenge to the Arab world: it is YOUR responsibility. Police your own, show the world that you can do it! Act! Prove that America doesn't have to be the world's policeman. We don't want to do it, and neither do the other nations of the world.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Reply
  17. Fred

    Let's don't get ourselves involved in another conflict which will cost us billions, maybe our soldiers' lives, and end up without a satisfactory outcome. Look at Viet Nam, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. Let the people in that area of the world deal with the problem. We're broke.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  18. Melissa N.

    I am absolutely sickened by what is happening in Syria. I've never had much of an interest in foreign affairs, until now. What is happening over there is devastating and horrible. It is the United States' MORAL OBLIGATION to step in and help, especially when Syria's innocent civilians are BEGGING and PLEADING for help. How can we deny them, or turn a blind eye? That is not who we are. Maybe we shouldn't always involve ourselves in certain foreign affairs, but I think this is definitely a situation where U.S. involvement is NECESSARY to save thousands of lives. Or, at the very least, we should hire an assassin to take out the dictator. SOMETHING needs to be done. Innocent people - EVEN CHILDREN - are being slaughtered like animals over there. It's so easy to shrug it off as you sit there in your comfy chair, when people over there are going through HELL. I can't IMAGINE what they are going through right now.

    If America doesn't do something, then I will be even MORE ashamed to call myself an American. And SHAME ON YOU, CHINA AND RUSSIA. You callous pieces of trash! How can you not step in and do something? The blood of the innocent Syrians killed because of your refusal to get involved is on YOUR hands!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
    • Rich

      Since you admit never having paid much attention to foreign affairs, then you likely are unaware of many related things.

      People want us to hit Syria, because Syria and Iran are allied. This is an excuse to get us into a wider war, and you're taking the bait. Some want a war with Iran in order to keep them from building a nuclear weapon. They want a nuclear weapon because they need it to destroy Israel, which they need to do to bring about the Mahdi, or 12th Imam – it's nuts, but it is the whole purpose of the Iranian regime. Self-preservation is not an instinct they possess; they're happy to martyr millions of Iranians to do this.

      In short, this is a tinderbox, and people like you, running on emotion instead of reason, are the equivalent of flipping lit matches at it – thousands, maybe even tens of thousands will die if we do nothing. If we act, it will set off a chain of events where MILLIONS could die. And people who called for intervention would likely be ignorant of the fact it was their fault. YOUR fault.

      That is why so many of us are not pulling our hair out over this. It's a shame – but it's not OUR shame, and it is not our problem.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      The World at large didn't hear you furious and whine like this with mouth foaming fits when your own US Gov't FULLY supported evil, murderous white South African apartheid regimes or in any part of Africa of their murderous rampage assault against Black folks and massive massacre of Black school children in Africa a.k.a owners of their God Given country. Your idol cowboy Pres. Ronald Reagan fully supported their actions to the hilt and called them self defense.

      Self defense my Black ASS!

      February 10, 2012 at 12:03 am | Reply
    • jkimo75

      That sounds good I hope when they need someone to go, you go and fight. Everyone say's we should fight but I do not see any politicians children going to fight in any war.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  19. pat carr

    no melissa it isn't our "obligation". Go ahead and be ashamed because i'm ashamed of all these war mongering people

    February 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  20. citizenmn

    The US does need to do something to rid Syria of the Assad regime, but I we shouldn't be taking advice from the Heritage Foundation. They are the same people who got us into the ill advised Iraq war; they have no credibility.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  21. mpm

    The Syrian people are fighting for there freedom. We need to act NOW! Obama probably will do nothing but talk. No action. Why? Because this is an election year and he is only thinking of himself. He's pathetic.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
    • jkimo75

      Its easy to say send the military if you are not the one going over to fight. War is hard and people die, if we get involved its going to be a long and drawn out war. After about 6 to seven years of US soldiers fighting and dying I wander if you will still feel the way you do. Look what happened with Iraq and Afganistan people were for it then when people started dying and the years statrted going by people changed there tune quickly.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  22. Lester Sorebum

    From a political and economical standpoint, the best thing to do is stay out of it. From a Christian point of view, we're supposed to go kill a few bad people to save a lot of innocent ones. God trumps power and fiscal issues everytime. It is someone's duty to humanity to help those people. To ask "Why the U.S. everytime?" is a great question to be debated AFTER something is done to save thousands of lives, but not while they are being slaughtered in the streets and in their homes by their own government.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Reply
    • Rich

      Actually, advocating killing a few bad people is NOT the Christian perspective. It's "Thou Shalt Not Kill", not "Thou Shalt Only Kill the Bad Guys".

      It's faulty logic like yours that causes some folks to do things like murder abortion doctors – after all, it's taking one life that is responsible for taking hundreds or thousands more. One person's bad guy is another's good guy.

      It is also worth noting that the Christian minority, along with many other minorities, would likely be slaughtered or subjugated if the rebels (mostly Sunni Muslim) win. There IS such a thing as a fight between two bad guys. When two bullies fight – let them have at it and don't pick sides.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  23. Speculate Much

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

    This is where I stopped reading. Are you seriously citing this as one of the reasons for US intervention in Syria?

    You are helplessly clueless!

    February 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  24. John

    Here is our chance to drain the swamp: syrian and iran ... the world will soon be without them.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Reply
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