Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


September 12, 2013

America needs a smarter foreign policy


Now, our president and his secretary of state have blundered us to the brink of military intervention in yet another failing Middle Eastern state, Syria, where at least some rebels against President Bashar Assad are affiliated with al-Qaida. Two weeks ago, President Obama was ready to let fly a Tomahawk missile barrage against Syria for its government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, crossing a “red line” that Obama had drawn a year earlier.

But our allies quickly abandoned us and Obama passed the decision to strike on to Congress. With public sentiment strongly against any intervention, it seemed unlikely Congress would approve. The administration’s waffling on such a prominent stage was extraordinarily damaging to our international stature.

Now, Secretary of State John Kerry has managed to back our country into an even more embarrassing position. After trying to assure the international community that a U.S. attack would be “unbelievably small,” he announced that an attack would not be necessary at all if Syria would give up all its chemical weapons to international inspectors within a week.

The proposal was never serious. The State Department began backpedaling from it immediately. However, Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin has opposed U.S. intervention from the beginning, seized on Kerry’s gaffe as the new American policy. Putin’s lapdogs in Syria quickly agreed.

So the Obama administration in the space of two weeks has gone from being on the verge of an imminent attack over what it deemed a humanitarian outrage, to deferring the decision to attack to Congress, to promising only “unbelievably small” action, to facing the prospect of endless Russian-Syrian delays on the “handing over” of Assad’s chemical weapons.

Our national leaders have been played for fools. In the process, they have reduced American power and prestige abroad into something truly “unbelievably small.”

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