By Tony Cline, Staff Writer
On Tuesday, planes flew over the rebel-held territory of Idlib province and dropped sarin gas on civilians, killing more than 60 so far and putting over 100 more in the hospital. President Trump quickly condemned these horrible actions of the Syrian government. Then he proceeded to say that at least part of the blame for this lies at the feet of the Obama administration. He claims that President Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” statement in 2012 led to today’s tragedy…and he’s right.
In April, 2012, President Obama said that “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” I guess “a whole bunch” is such an inexact term that it leaves wiggle room, but this statement seemed to indicate to most of us that use of chemical weapons by either side in the Syrian civil war would trigger American reprisals. When asked to elaborate on the president’s comments, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “There are important international obligations that the Syrian regime must live up to in terms of the handling of their chemical weapons. And the officials who have that responsibility will be held accountable for their actions and will be held accountable for living up to those international obligations.”
Then came August 21, 2013. In the middle of the night, the Syrian armed forces launched chemical weapons into the rebel-held areas of Damascus, the capital city. They slaughtered over 1,300 civilians, including more than 400 children, with sarin gas. The Assad regime had clearly crossed President Obama’s red line. What happened next would have far-reaching consequences for the world: the United States blinked. President Obama refused to enforce his red line and punish the Assad regime in any significant way. As a result, the force that, for better or worse, has been the main enforcer of international law for 70 years lost respect in the eyes of the world, especially in the eyes of the world’s despots. North Korea, a pariah of the international community that launched seven missile tests in the two decades prior to Obama’s red line proclamation has now launched seven in the three and a half years since he failed to uphold that line. Russia decided that the US couldn’t be counted upon to defend its allies, and so it invaded and stole Crimea from Ukraine. And now, the Assad regime has once again launched a deadly attack on its own people using sarin gas. President Trump’s statement that some of the blame for this disaster lies at the feet of Barack Obama is absolutely correct.
However, before we give the president too much credit, let’s remember that he tweeted in August of 2013, after the first sarin gas attack by the Syrian military, urging President Obama not to attack Syria. Now, he blames Mr. Obama for not doing so. The hypocrisy is strong with this one…
I know that many in this country want the US to pull back from its role as the world’s police force. They claim that it is too expensive, it is none of our business, and we are bad at it anyway. However, we know what happens when the United States becomes withdrawn: the last time we weren’t policing the world, we had to clean up two world wars in less than thirty years, the latter of which saw the extermination of over 6 million innocent Jews. Just a little lapse in policing things in the last few years has led to repeated chemical attacks on civilians, a despot who is testing missiles that may one day launch nuclear weapons to our shores, and another despot that invades and steals his neighbor’s property. How long are we willing to stand back and allow these atrocities? How long will we need to before we have to clean up a third world war?