Last Friday Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the United States had a “moral obligation” to punish Syria for using chemical weapons. To back up his position he proceeded to paint a ghastly portrait of twitching bodies, victims foaming at the mouth and row upon row of children gassed to death. According to Kerry Assad is a “a thug and a murderer” and had committed a crime “against conscience.”
President Obama has backed up Kerry and said the United States had a “moral obligation” as a leader in the world to hold foreign nations to account when they use prohibited weapons. Like Kerry the President went on to paint a gruesome picture of the result of the chemical weapons attack. “Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home,” he said, “we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas, and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.”
Here we have Kerry and Obama, striking a self-righteous moral pose to punish Assad by bombing Syria. Think about that. Punishing Assad by bombing Syrians? Punish Syrians for the actions of a Syrian? Holding nations to account? How about holding their leaders to account? How about holding Assad to account?
Unfortunately, navigating the moral universe is never as simple as see-evil-punish-evil. The President is not the headmaster of a boarding school and Assad is not one of his pupils. But listening to Obama and watching him strike his gravitas laden poses as he pontificates about good and evil – from social justice, to green energy, to greedy bankers and now the evil Assad – it might seem that he has missed his calling. The President needs to get real before he gets all cranked up in his morality crusade. The President needs to explain why punishing Assad for killing his own people by killing some more of his people is an effective policy. He needs to make a convincing case that such a policy will not do more harm than good instead of preaching to us about our “moral obligations” and painting ghastly pictures of gassed Syrians.
And now he has postponed punishing Assad until he gets congressional approval. Has he gotten the message?
Not according to Byron York of The Washington Examiner. According to York, what is making the President hesitant to take action is not a realistic assessment of the consequences of a bombing campaign but the lack of support of the UN and the Arab League. Had either one given the go ahead the President would have ignored Congress.
I pledge allegiance to what?