Tom Finneran: Obama’s Dominoes

Friday, September 06, 2013


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With all eyes on him, Obama could use all the divine assistance he can get.

I find myself praying for President Obama. He’s now square in the middle of the land of lousy choices.

He can look the other way and studiously ignore what John Kerry says is compelling irrefutable evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on the Syrian people. Or he can fashion a serious military response and run the risk of several dangerous dominoes falling on America’s head.

I pray for all of our Presidents, hoping that their White House years spare them the agonies of such decisions. Despite those prayers, few Presidents are ever spared, for the world constantly thinks of America even if Americans rarely think of the rest of the world.

Prelude to a war

I also find myself hoping that President Obama has read The Guns of August about the diplomatic prelude to World War I. And, if he has, he should read it again. To read the book is both depressing and infuriating for its description of blunder after blunder, erroneous assumption after erroneous assumption, and near-suicidal misjudgments driven by nationalist ego. That millions of young men had to die in the service of such idiocy underlines the flawed nature of mankind.

In the midst of all this Middle Eastern turmoil, one hosanna should ring out loud and clear and that is the President’s last-minute decision to put the matter before Congress for its consideration. Notwithstanding the sad and difficult task now before it, the Congress should be elated. As should we. There must be a national debate about whether and how to respond to the situation in Syria.

Many questions arise and many dominoes may fall. Thus, the burden is on the Obama administration to convince the Congress that an American military response is called for.

Consider for a moment–a) the reliability of our “slam-dunk” intelligence in a region where we have been consistently wrong, b) the possibility that the Syrian rebels themselves (not many Boy Scouts there) deceptively used chemical weapons on civilians in order to draw global reaction and support to their side, c) providing Iran the excuse they seek to launch showers of reprisal attacks on Israel, d) Israel’s obligation to defend itself at all cost, e) America’s obligation to fight alongside Israel, and f) Russia’s stated intention to support and defend both Syria and Iran. Had enough?

Stepping up

Consider too that in light of the President’s months-old rhetorical “red line” comment about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, there remains a very serious question on the table–if the world does not respond to such a flagrant breach of universally accepted standards, then why would any lunatic world leader ever forego chemical weapons again? There is certainly no shortage of such lunatic leaders. But it appears that there is a serious shortage of nations willing to join any “coalition of the willing”. Even the Brits are out of this one. That the world is about to prove itself feckless by such a shrug of non-response is precisely the worrisome point. Remember that our old friend Saddam Hussein openly flouted considerably more than a dozen United Nations’ resolutions. Those resolutions were utterly meaningless to him until the United States finally said “no more”. And for fecklessness, could there be any greater historical example than the behavior of Great Britain and France in the early years of Hitler’s emergence in Germany? The staggering cost of World War II–millions killed, billions spent, nations shattered, millions more enslaved–could have, should have, and would have been avoided had Great Britain and France shown even minimal determination to stop the desperate early gambles of Corporal Hitler. Instead, war-weary and desperate for peace, they settled for the illusion of peace by foregoing their responsibilities. Thus they sowed the seeds of war. And what a harvest they reaped…

Let’s pray that we can get this one right. Let’s hope that cheap theatrical politics will be set aside and that the nation’s interests will be considered before party politics. President Obama is in a curious political place, advocating policies and actions which bear striking resemblance to George Bush’s policies. That candidate Obama denounced the very same policies and actions that he now exercises every day is certainly a frustration for the nation’s Republicans. And it provides an entertaining spotlight upon the glib hypocrisy of many Democratic support groups who wanted to impeach George Bush for “war crimes” as they sang the praises of the brilliance of Barack Obama, the “black Messiah”.

That messiah now needs our prayers. Pass the rosary beads.


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