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Taking no position in Syria
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Sometimes it appears that everybody in Washington yearns for an action-hero president to make them feel important. That's never more apparent than during a crisis like the Syrian civil war President Obama stands accused of "dithering" about.
Of course, his chief journalistic accusers are columnists Maureen Dowd and Charles Krauthammer, of the New York Times and Washington Post respectively. Dowd turns everything into a movie scenario.
Krauthammer thinks things would have worked out better if the U.S. still had troops occupying Iraq -- the better to menace Iran and Syria too, formerly Saddam Hussein's job. Obama, he opines, "simply does not understand that if America withdraws from the scene, it creates a vacuum that invites hostile outside intervention. A superpower's role in a regional conflict is deterrence."
Also known as perpetual war in the Middle East.
Even Bill Clinton famously piled on, which is what set Dowd off. At a public forum in New York, he explained Obama risked looking "like a total wuss" if he blamed opinion polls showing that 80 percent of Americans oppose U.S. intervention in Syria for his own indecisiveness. Clinton said that presidents sometimes have to act, "and hope to God you can sell it."
Now that the Syrian dictator, with Russian and Iranian assistance, seems on the verge of defeating his enemies, President Obama has agreed to provide small arms to rebel groups -- something unlikely to prove decisive.
Perhaps sensitive to criticism, President Obama gave an extraordinarily frank interview to CBS's Charlie Rose. "This argument that somehow we had gone in earlier or heavier in some fashion," he said, "that the tragedy and chaos taking place in Syria wouldn't be taking place, I think is wrong."
In essence, the president argues that there are no good options in Syria and never were. Would establishing a no-fly zone, for example, mean bombing Damascus? What about civilian casualties? And what happens if chemical weapons stored there get hit?
"Unless you've been involved in those conversations," he said, "then it's kind of hard for you to understand the complexity of the situation and how we have to not rush into one more war in the Middle East."
In other words, there’s no Barack Obama doll to match the official "TOP GUN George W. Bush 12-Inch Action Figure in Flight Suit" from his famous “Mission Accomplished” days available from Amazon.com. Also, however, there’s no 10-year occupation of Syria, no thousands of American dead and hundreds of billions of dollars lost in the desert.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons can be reached at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.