The United Nations alleged that the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria used chemical weapons against civilians in rebel-controlled areas of that nation on August 31, 2013. In Secretary of State John Kerry’s report on the attack, he put the death toll from the attack to 1,429 civilians–including over 400 children.
The Geneva Protocol(pdf), established in 1925, explicitly prohibits the use of chemical agents in war after the horrors that were seen in World War I.
It would appear that this is the final straw for President Obama who, as the Commander in Chief, has the ability and the right to order military action against Syria–without Congress’ permission.
So why did President Obama seek approval when he did not need to?
There are several possible reasons:
1.) He doesn’t really want to attack Syria.
Obama and the United States have known about the Syrian conflict for two years now. Since March 2011, there have been over 110,000 deaths. This number includes over 40,000 civilian casualties, with 5,800 of those being children. If he felt morally obligated to intervene in Syria then Obama would have done it a long time ago.
Removing Al-Assad from power could possibly lead to Al-Qaeda taking over; agreeably a bad outcome.
He doesn’t want to get dragged into another ongoing military campaign (remember Afghanistan and Iraq).
Drone strikes and other bomb/missile attacks have been known to be inaccurate. If we accidentally kill innocents, Obama would end up with egg on his face.
Traditionally, the President’s party is notoriously anti-bombing/war/killing people. It does not politically benefit the President to distance himself from his base.
2.) He’s under a lot of heat already.
If we do accept the fact Obama has seen the light and truly wants to punish Al-Assad for his terrible deeds, we have to look at the political circumstances of the moment. Congressional Republicans have notedly taken a stance against any and all of President Obama’s policies and ideas. He is also still receiving flak for his Affordable Healthcare Act, which goes into full effect in January of 2014.
3.) The UN kinda sucks right now.
There is presently a great fear that the United Nations is becoming outdated and ineffectual. Due to the provision for the veto by permanent members of the Security Council in the United Nations Charter, Russia and China both have the ability to block any action against Syria.
Any action that the United States takes against Syria at this point will technically be breaking international law.
Britain is not joining in on the effort, which really hangs the United States out to dry on this issue.
4.) There’s Russia again.
Aside from Russia constantly vetoing any and all action against their ally Al-Assad, Russia is also playing Devil’s Advocate. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently written an op-ed in the New York Times about why the United States should not attack Syria.
While Putin does make a few sound arguments, other parts of the editorial are red with blatant hypocrisies and contradictions.
Russia is now proposing a peaceful diplomatic solution with America and Syria. In return for the United States not attacking Syria, Russia will facilitate the removal and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Obama is glad to hear this proposed resolution, as it will preserve his image and save him a lot of stress here at home. He has now pushed back the vote on whether America should strike Syria or not.
Something must be done about Syria, that much is clear. But before you rush to hasty judgements on how our President has handled the situation, remember this: the man has quite a bit on his plate.