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. Dick M

    We should use cruise missles against Syrian military targets, particularly those bombing the civilians. No need to put our troops on the ground there. Just send help to the civilians and the army defectors. But start now before it's too late. It was almost tool late in Libya.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Reply
    • Tahir

      In Libya people are still killing each other why are you not worried now?

      February 16, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
  2. SoCal81

    Hey Danielle who wrote this article, why don't you read Husein's article on why we should stay OUT of Syria. Let the Arab spring brotherhood help them, or Egypt, or another country who has the same beliefs as them. The US needs to stay out of there. We have blown enough billions of dollars already, and for what? So they can hate us more. Most importantly, we don't want any more of our soldiers dying for people who obviously hate us.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Reply
  3. magician

    remove China and Russia as Perm members

    February 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Reply
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      You're in a MINORITY. You can't have things your way.
      What's is the size of your brain really?

      February 9, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Reply
      • .

        Go back to Beki Beki Beki Beki Beki stan and fix it yourself, Akmed.

        February 10, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Tahir

      Add real evils USA, ENGLAND and FRANCE to your list of permanent members to show a real face of democracy from world power at UN.These countries should come forward and leave this right to show there real face of democracy.No body except they themselves believe that they are democratic countries with such a right.

      February 16, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
  4. bad2worse


    February 9, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Reply
  5. SPQR

    May God bless the children, women and elderly.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:11 am | Reply
    • Fred

      Hey, what about the men?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:59 am | Reply
      • .

        And dogs? What about dogs?

        February 10, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  6. Ted Ryder

    Just let Israel take both Syria and Iran out. The war will be over in 2 weeks. Israel will destroy both countries without breaking a sweat.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:12 am | Reply
  7. rukwazy

    Why is there so much debate, Pros and Cons and much speculation about the Syria situation and the middle east,(humanity needs you) Wasn't the USA the last country to enter WW2 (after Pearl Harbour) when humanity needed them 2.5 yrs earlier in 1939?, as the Canadians and Brits fought the big battles right from the get go, but its funny how the USA got most of the glory.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
    • .

      How 'bout fixing the problems in our country first?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:46 am | Reply
  8. against intervention

    So you want another Iraq? Years of war not to mention lives and national treasure lost. Haven't we learned yet? There are bad things and bad people in this world and we can't make them all behave as we want. Stay the heck out this time!!! We are NOT the worlds police force.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:08 am | Reply
  9. firemedic2274

    As if it needs rebearing, aren't these the same people that were chearing after the 9/11 attacks, burning the Us flag and jubilent in their streets as we were morning the lose of thousands of our countrymen. What concern should it be of ours after 11 years, terrorists seem to "reap what they sow"!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
    • Rich

      The Palestinians did that. I'm not sure if the Syrians did also or not, but for sure the Palestinians.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:36 am | Reply
    • Tahir

      They were cheering on 9/11 because they knew that USA dug a hole for them but fell into it itself. Remember USA created Osama in cold war.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
  10. firemedic2274

    Reap what you sow! Reap it! I feel bad for the innocent women and children caught in this calamity. I would also caution against involvement, this is not our place to police. Let the "region" work this out, if their willing. Libya grasped its own destiny, as the Syrians must also do. Good luck, God Bless and good bye!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:30 am | Reply
  11. firemedic2274

    Yeah, right. Don't see many US flags burnin there today! I guess their busy with other things!!
    I'm more concerned with our own countrymen. Our starving children, our neighborhoods, our veterans, OUR people!!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:40 am | Reply
    • .

      The American flags will start burning as soon as we step in to help them. Muslim killing Muslim is a win/win situation.

      Let it be.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:46 am | Reply
      • Tahir

        What about the world war situation, Christians killings Christians . Was this also a win / win situation.

        February 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  12. firemedic2274

    The Syrians did that. The Iranians did it, and the "Palestinians" also, among others! Our fallen countrymen would expect us to remember this!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:46 am | Reply
  13. 5th Marine

    To all those collectively who have stated that the US should avoid involvement in Syria, or any country whose citizens are being persecuted/executed, I offer the following. The US and its closest, reliable, and responsible allies have no other choice but to defend the rights and lives of the persecuted because it is at the core values of who we are, and too many other nations are either led by the tyrants who are the root of the problem or lack the courage to protect those human beings who are the victims of tyranny. Russia, China, Iran and other similar brutal oligarchies are the enemies of our species, and are too fond of torturing their own citizens to be depended upon to protect humanity.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:49 am | Reply
    • Devonshire

      5th Marine, here is the problem, unless you have read one of the rebels posts here. He calls President Obama a liar. They are interested in installing the Muslim brotherhood.. The Muslim brotherhood considers Americans infidels. They will come back and kill us later....just like Egypt,just like Libya...the rebels are not are allies they are our enemies.
      The question is why would we help people who have disdain for us by changing from one hostile regime to another.
      If the people of Syria were grateful for our help, and we helped them to a democratic society and they became our allies that is one thing. But the rebels are also our enemy and if we save them they will eventually kill us.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:59 am | Reply
    • scott o'canada

      a'men brother, I think we have a moral obligation to step in when it starts becoming a turkey shoot. there is a right way and wrong way to do this. It's high time we at least make an attempt to stop tha carnage. Let history and God judge whether we should or should not. Get in, get out and let the people of Syria guide their future.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  14. johnny

    Yup, Assad sure needs help from America's caterpillar – to dig a hole, deeper than Saddam's, in his last days.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:03 am | Reply
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    February 10, 2012 at 2:45 am | Reply
  16. reyfrom the usa for freedom

    It is good to help the Syrian to continue in pursuing their freedom and to get get rid of their dictator Assad, however it is just like the Philippines: people power made their demand,freedom! Filipinos used their unity to get rid of the Marcoses and Imeldas including her 30,000 shoes! Syrians, get united as one to fight your freedom: you do not need any stinking HELP from outside or from the West specially from us the USA...do your own job for your own freedom! USA is not your big brother and you have no no big brother just the Iranian, go and ask your bother Iranians!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
    • Tahir

      Before talking about democracy and dictators and giving us lessons, can you please leave your write of veto at UN so that we can see your democratic face.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
  17. Paul

    it's already started .... just wait and u will see why Obama has real balls .. he he

    February 10, 2012 at 6:13 am | Reply
  18. .

    We have people occupying sidewalks and defecating on public streets because they can't find jobs, the unemployment rate is dropping not because people are finding jobs, but because they've given up looking. The government is bailing out homeowners who got in over their heads at the expense of homeowners who acted responsively and the national debt has tripled since the liberal agenda began in 2006.

    Never mind Syria. We're taking America back in November.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:44 am | Reply
  19. Dani

    George Bush told the Russians to go f....themselves and he went on and removed Saddam and his regime from power,
    Russia has no muscle to stretch anymore, it's become a big (Syria like) country with dictator Putin in charge, why do we
    the United States of America, have to kneel before Russia and China ? we still are Super power and we still can remove Assad and his brutal regime from power without having to worry about what Russia might thinks of us.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:13 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      Dani: You are right! America is the great country. So if you want to go to Syria now and f..... themselves – nobody will be able to stop you, neither Russia, no China. That does not mean though that they must be together with you on that and vote for it. RIght? Why would you expect their approval at all? Why are you so upset and so angry? Just go and f..... yourself! Be a man, do it! Do it any time any place!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
      • Andrey

        P.S. Just assume that Russia and China were concerned about situation in Syria alone. That their position there was not about US at all. And that is what their veto reflects. I hope it will make it easier on you.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • zak

      you love America then do not fight for the sake of Israle.


      February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  20. Onikami

    I'm tired of this. The usa is not a world policing force as of yet and people think that it should or shloud not be. when these countries have problems it's THEIR PROBLEM!!! They cry and cry come help us but when we do thay spit on us and call us names just cuz they could not solve it them selves. When (not IF!!) the USA throws open the union and excepts other countries as partners what will people say about those countries wishing to join us? that we conquered them? that we coerced them? NO!! they will say thatthey are cowards who wish to tie them selves to our skirt strings.
    But that is also untrue. they just wish for peace and prosperity that other countries cant really give them. and they will make the usa both stronger and weaker for it. the other countries will condemn the us for it but cant really do anything about it because they are willing and freely joining our union.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • outspoken

      I did not get you . What is your point ?

      February 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Reply
  21. Onikami

    the whole iran/isreal problem is really quite simple. ask isreal if it would like to join the union and lets see the arab world stew on that for a while. I garantee that they all will think twice about attacking isreal and when they do (not IF!!) they will have our boot up their ass and their people rebelling so bad that we could move right on in with the peoples blessing.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
  22. Onikami

    as to the whole syria problem: Do you honestly think they want america there? we come in, kick assad to the curb, then leave, leaving militants in charge of the country. What's changed? who did we help? the people? the terrorists? they will put people in power who may or may not hold onto the power we died to provide them and we'll probably have to deal with their problems for the forseeable future. I say ask iraq if they would like to join us as a state. ask egypt! ask libya! if they so no then pull out any us charity or aid and give that to people who actually want us there. responibility is a good thing but not if weakens us to our enemies. and thats what all this foriegn aid is really doing to us.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  23. zak

    here is the man who loves America soooooo muuuuuuch!!!???
    Please see this link and you will understand why do we need to go to war with syria.


    February 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
    • Onikami

      Who me??

      February 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    • Onikami

      Who are u talking to???

      February 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  24. zak


    February 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
    • Rich

      Wow. The folks on the boards at that link thought that was a serious interview – it's even LABELED as satire!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  25. zak

    to whomeit may concern

    February 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  26. 4commonsensenow

    Again, I say why do I care? Who are these people that decided to finally go against there so called terroist loving leader that Im told, so it seems. Look, I think your all nuts. Nicely at that. I understand everyone has a reason to keep pushing towards ww3. Well if that's all the human spirit really has left, then I can't stop you then. Violence is just a path down to more violence. If you really wanna help these people out, sign some peace refugee thing where you can take those people out. If the number is crazy, like 90 % of the population, then, well, you have to go in. But via the UN. If russia and China didnt budge then, Id be very surprised. Remember, we all want people to have the basic freedoms we enjoy, but realistically they arent living in that system.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
    • Onikami

      the problem with your premise is this: if syria (or any other country for that matter) would accept us or anybody else doing that (the whole refugee release thing ) they would have no power base but other people who want power. trust that scenario to end the world faster than ww3 would. both sides would end with so much internal and external fighting that war would become the only industry in the world. mainly refugees vs tyrants. and then the refugees would be open to tyrants from the inside because the non fighters would be in trouble because they have no will to fight. one of the things that war proves is that we will not lie down and take tyrants.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
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