But first… I actually believe that the Obama administration is telling the truth. I actually believe that the Sarin attack was the doing of the Syrian government. I spent some time this the weekend reading, in particular reading about the history and properties of [(CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F (the chemical formula for Sarin). I came to realize that producing Sarin is not easy, storing Sarin (which is unstable) is not easy, and deploying Sarin is not easy. Yes, it can be done (as demonstrated by two separate Sarin attacks in Tokyo by an extremist sect in the 1990s) but it is very hard to do it effectively (as demonstrated during an attack on American troops in Iraq in 2004, in which a roadside bomb based on a Sarin artillery shell was used, but the components did not mix properly and very little Sarin was produced.) In light of what I read, and in light of the evidence offered in the meantime by the White House, I think there is very little doubt that the attack was the regime’s doing. (In other words, Putin is full of the proverbial “it”.)
So why is the free world not lining up behind its brave leader, Barack H. Obama? Well… here is where Bush’s smarts come in. While those opposed to him (myself included) liked to ridicule his statements (which basically all boiled down to, “Saddam evil, bomb Iraq”) by the time he brought his case to Congress, well, he had a case. We may have laughed at his “coalition of the willing”, but at least he had a coalition! And, ridiculous as his so-called evidence for WMDs in Iraq was (all of which turned out to be a boldfaced lie), he managed to sell it to all those who mattered: the US Congress, the Senate, his allies. When he started his war, sure he had significant opposition but he also had broad support. Even as he said that if necessary, he would “go it alone”, he didn’t. He was backed by many.
Barack Obama: the smart, highly educated, peace-loving, consensus-builder Barack Obama has no support. Even his closest allies are abandoning him both in Congress and abroad. CNN boldly states that Obama has a “challenge” convincing Congress, but it looks more like a slam dunk to me: what was it, I think 24 in favor, well over 100 against, and the rest who are undecided are not exactly leaning towards authorizing war either.
For what it’s worth, I still like Obama. I still believe that he is a better president than his predecessor, all things considered. But I am really puzzled by this Syria thing. If I were a lawmaker in the US Congress, I would also vote against it, not to spite Obama, but because I just don’t see what a limited military strike is intended to accomplish and how. Nor do I see an honest attempt to account for all possible consequences of such a strike.
Meanwhile I also cannot help but scowl at the hypocrisy of anti-war protesters who chant for “peace”. Assad’s war is not “peace”. It is a very nasty civil war, in which Assad’s government is committing wholesale murder. The world should consider intervention. But such an intervention should be based on a decisive military commitment (i.e., boots must be on the ground) and a well-defined outcome (a civilian government free of jihadist elements firmly in control of Syria.) You can’t do this on the cheap by lobbing a few missiles into the country and hope for the best. That’s just irresponsible and stupid.