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Barack Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t when it comes to Syria, writes Khaya Dlanga.
President Barack Obama has to make some serious decisions when it comes to Syria. We know there are differing schools of thought when it comes to the situation over there. Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
There are many questions. For example, what happens if there is no strike against President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons? Would that be seen as an invitation for the other side to develop chemical weapons too because there is no consequence to having them?
Samantha Power, Obama’s ambassador to the UN, said: “We cannot afford to signal to North Korea and Iran that the international community is unwilling to act to prevent proliferation or willing to tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction.
“People will draw lessons if the world proves unwilling to enforce the norms against chemical weapons use that we have worked so diligently to construct.”
But the big issue here is that there is no concrete evidence that Assad carried out the attacks on the rebels. In an interview with CBS which will be aired later this week, it’s reported that Assad said: “There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people”. This statement is factually correct; there is no evidence that he used chemical weapons.
On the other hand, Russia, a Syrian ally, said it was the rebels who used chemical weapons. Neither the US nor Russia have produced concrete evidence, like satellite imagery and so on, to prove which side used the chemical weapons.
What is known is that Assad is in possession of chemical weapons. We know that nations that represent 98 percent of the world, including those on the UN Security Council, agreed to ban chemical weapons.
The Assad regime is ultimately responsible for having the illegal weapons.
The US also has a history of making friends with people who later turn on them. In the Afghan war in the 1980s, the US aligned with groups that were fighting against the then-USSR. These friends would later become enemies of the US, joining al-Qaeda and the Taliban. There are no guarantees that by aligning with the rebels, the US would be safe.
The first year of his second term hasn’t gone very well for Obama. The Republicans have pummelled his administration for the handling of the killing of US diplomatic staff in Libya last year. Then there have been the leaks by Edward Snowden, who claimed that the US has been spying on citizens, leading to further mistrust of the president.
The president seems more like a hawk to many than the dove they expected him to be. And now the debate about Syria.
What happens to the country after the strikes? What happens if Assad uses chemical weapons again if he is struck? What will the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president do?
When Obama was awarded the prize in November 2009, he made the following remarks regarding war and peace and the responsibility of the US: “Still, we are at war, and I’m responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”
There are no easy choices to be made here. The price for peace is often war. It might have to take war to make peace. Obama has always been practical, and not as idealistic as people assumed. There is no easy solution, but the world has to do something about Syria. What that is, I don’t know. But we don’t need another Rwanda, where the world did nothing. - Cape Times
* Khaya Dlanga works in the communications industry.
** The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.