Why Now For Syria?

Suddenly, We Must Act?

Posted: September 6, 2013

While public-opinion polls conducted over the last 48 hours still indicate a majority of Americans are dead-set against military action in Syria — an ABC News/Washington Post survey, for instance, showed 59 percent opposed — there’s little consensus within the political class.

Nowhere is this more evident than here in Virginia where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and firebrand Democrat Jim Moran actually find themselves in agreement. Both support intervention. Of the state delegation’s seven other Republicans, all are either decidedly hesitant or outright opposed to stepping into that nation’s civil war.

Rounding out the congressional delegation, 3rd District Democrat Bobby Scott, as of Wednesday morning, had yet to be persuaded that military action is necessary while 11th District Democrat Gerry Connolly helped draft language to narrowly define a U.S. presence in Syria. Both Democratic senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, seem to be leaning toward intervention.

These men, of course, are privy to intelligence reports and other critical information unavailable to the public. Nonetheless, after considerable research, reading, and observation, we still find ourselves asking, “Why now?” Writing in The Washington Post on Tuesday, a pair of Republican congressmen — Reps. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, both war veterans — made the case for intervention, noting as they did that if the Obama administration had acted earlier (and, by the way, had a coherent foreign policy) in Syria, the United States would not be confronted by this 11th-hour “should we or shouldn’t we” predicament.

Both congressmen maintain American interests — i.e., our credibility and the safety and integrity of our allies in the region — hang in the balance. The core of their message: “Congress has its own constitutional duty to defend U.S. interests, and those interests shouldn’t be neglected simply because we have doubts about [President] Obama.”

It is here that we part company with Messrs. Pompeo and Cotton. Their reasoning comes a day late, if not a dollar short. Why act now when this nation has done nothing, say, to squelch Iran’s nuclear ambitions — and did nothing but sit idly by when brave Iranians rose against the ruling mullahs in 2009?

Why act now under the pretext of protecting our allies when this administration has shown little inclination to do so — not in Egypt, not in Tunisia, and not even in Israel, whose leaders the White House encouraged to make concessions to implacable Palestinian enemies?

Finally, the notion that America must respond to the Syrian government’s reported use of chemical weapons pays little heed to the fact that more than 100,000 Syrians, many of them innocents, had died at the hands of Bashar al-Assad before the likes of sarin gas were introduced to this fray. Why now, but not before?

A case, we suppose, can be made for the idea that “it’s never too late to make a difference” — or to remedy past inefficacy. To act now, though, with no discernible entry or exit plans and with little apparent regard for the potential consequences, may prove the biggest blunder of all, a failure of commission rather than of omission.

The American people seem to intuitively grasp this. Why can’t the politicians?

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