Swans Commentary » swans.com September 9, 2013  



Keep Your Eyes On The Prize, Mr. President


by Jan Baughman





"I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace."

—Barack Obama, in his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech "A Just and Lasting Peace," December 10, 2009


(Swans - September 9, 2013)   When President Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech to the Nobel Prize Committee, he did not hesitate to flaunt his belief in the moral justification of war and his right to act unilaterally, so it should come as no surprise that he is now beating the war drum on a path to Syria.

"What we're talking about is not an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground. Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope - designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so. I know that the American people are weary after a decade of war, even as the war in Iraq has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. That's why we're not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else's war."

Yes, Mr. President, we are weary after a decade of war; weary of waging losing battles and killing innocent civilians and sacrificing our troops. We are tired of creating instability and increased hostility toward us. We are ashamed of having destroyed an entire country, its civilization, and its president on false pretenses. That is why we are skeptical when our Congressional representatives -- the same ones who fell for it last time -- now tell us, "If you could see the [classified] evidence we've seen, you'd agree." That is why we raise our eyebrows when you say this war will be limited in time and scope (and cost), just like the one in Iraq was supposed to be. And we've been told before that there is no time to let the UN inspectors complete their investigation. Imagine if we'd let them do so in 2003...

We are concerned, Mr. President, that you will act unilaterally -- with or without Congressional authorization, and certainly without the endorsement of the UN -- in order to save face after drawing that red line in the sand that you claim Mr. Assad has crossed. We'd prefer that you look further down the horizon and truly analyze the potential implications of sending missiles to send a message. The egg will be on all our faces for years to come.

The hardest part of all this, Mr. President, is that once again, no matter what we say, or write, or do, you too are The Decider and will act accordingly. I would, however, like to remind you of the concluding words of the speech in which you justified war in response to being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

"Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that - for that is the story of human progress; that's the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth."

Do the right thing, Mr. President: Be the change we can believe in, rather than marching in lockstep down the warpath of every president before you. Keep your eye on that prize, and strive for peace. War is not peace.


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Jan Baughman on Swans -- with bio. She is Swans co-editor.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art19/jeb255.html
Published September 9, 2013