Should Good Men Do Nothing?
“The Only thing Necessary for Evil to Triumph is for Good Men to do Nothing.”
—-John F. Kennedy? Edmund Burke?
Here we are once again, on the eve of a possible “limited” war against another far-away country in one of the worst “neighborhoods” in the world.
How did we get here?
The answer to that question is an unfortunate one and points to a lack of leadership on the part of the Obama administration and other Western nations. For two years, the leader of Syria—Bashar al-Assad—has slaughtered well over 100,000 men, women and children as the world has watched on (and that number is probably low and under-reported).
The world and America has done nothing while Russia and Iran have continued their frequent arm shipments to the Syrian regime as it engages in a civil war against a most diverse and dubious opposition that now includes some elements of al-qaeda.
It wasn’t always dubious, but got so when no Western countries arrived to help level the playing field. And the playing field needing leveling. Almost from the start, as-Assad—a leader [or mis-leader, as Peter Drucker described such men] made in the mold of Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler—used his air force to attack innocents—his own people. Even Hitler, who started his genocide by killing tens of thousands of his own people, did not use his air force to achieve his heinous goal.
And seldom since September 1, 1939, when Hitler took his tanks and planes to Poland, has there been this kind of mismatch between two fighting forces. It was on that fateful day in 1939 in which Hitler created the “blitzkrieg,” a form of warfare that combines the use of tanks, or mechanized ground formations, with planes in the air to defeat armies by encircling and crushing them. On that day the Polish army attempted to defeat such an sophisticated enemy by mounting horses armed with small arms. That is why the Poland campaign was one of the fastest and easiest for Hitler’s army.
Fast forward more than seven decades and we have Syria fighting and destroying small cities using chemical agents and other horrendous weapons against innocents, particularly children (Syria has the greatest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world). But Syria does not care how it slaughters or kills. For example, it has recently been reported that the Syrian regime dropped a “napalm-like” bomb [like the ones the U.S. used in Vietnam] on a playground in the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing most of a dozen children. That is why so many Syrian cities resemble the rubble-ridden cities left in the aftermath of World War II.
It has been just over a year since President Barack Obama has drawn his now infamous line in the sand against chemical weapons. He said that the game-changer would come when “a bunch of chemical weapons” was thrown around in Syria. We now know that chemical weapons has been “thrown” around between a dozen and 30 times in Syria. In retrospect, and as others have suggested, the line in the sand should have been drawn far earlier, like when Assad used his air force against an innocent, unprotected population.
But we cannot go back. And Obama could not go back on his word, not now, as leaders in such countries as Iran and Russia look on. America—the world’s lone super-power, needs to fulfill its role and back up Obama’s words with action. America’s very credibility is at risk like no other time in history (although one could argue that the U.S. should have joined its European allies far earlier than it did in World War II since word of the Holocaust had been known well before December, 1941).
But America, sadly, is not with the President. Instead, many in a war-weary nation point to Iraq and say “not again.” But Syria is no Iraq. We are “fighting” the wrong war. We are not searching for alleged weapons that do not exist. In Syria, we not only know they exist, we have indisputable proof that they were used and that their use was ordered by high ranking officials in the Syrian regime. The U.S. has the intercepts of those orders and will soon show the world what it already knows.
But the pictures coming out of that nation should be enough for anyone.
However, they were not enough for England, as Prime Minister David Cameron was unable to convince the British Parliament to join the U.S. in this critical mission. Like Americans, they, too, were too focused on the lessons of Iraq. This was indeed a significant defeat, not just for Cameron and England, but the world. Winston Churchill turned over in his grave when his Parliament narrowly defeated this important measure. [Churchill was the best of a leader, a man who always knew exactly which battle and which war to fight. He would see Assad and the destruction and repeat his refrain about “never,” never” “never give in”].
So Obama must go it alone. So be it. However, as others have correctly pointed out, the American president must make a stronger case to America—and the world—by declassifying at least part of the intelligence and explain that he will not sit idly by as babies and children and women and other innocents get murdered so brutally. He also needs to have a goal, for a war without a goal is one that is doomed to failure. He should not have come out so publicly and stated that his goal is not regime change. In fact, he has telegraphed far too much and has taken away the element of surprise, a key asset for any attacking army [something we have known since Sun Tsu’s Art of War was published so many centuries ago].
But the key is action, and since in 2012 the U.S. spent more on their military than did the countries with the next 10 highest defense budgets combined, we have capabilities that countries like Syria could only dream about. But due to our inaction, the world does not fear, nor respect, America. By attacking one of the world’s worst regimes, we may be able to begin to rebuild our image and command the respect we deserve. But that is a sideshow. They key is to cripple Assad’s army so that he can no longer commit the atrocities that have so horrified the world.
At this time, in the final days of August, President Obama has said that he has not yet made a “go” decision, although with U.S. five destroyers armed with cruise missiles and other assets in the region, the U.S. is ready to attack. Timing is critical. The attack should not come next month or next week, but within the next 72 hours. Any further delay will only embolden Syria and Hezbollah [the terrorist group fighting with Assad’s armies]. And he must define the mission clearly so that he and the rest of the world knows what the finish line looks like. Put another way, he must know what success will look like after the mission is completed.
But the worse thing to do is do nothing. And capable countries that are unwilling to join in the fight should feel nothing but shame for not joining in a humanitarian mission that is long overdue. For whomever said it, evil will triumph if no action is taken. And with countries like Iran looking to go nuclear, the scale of that evil maybe beyond all of our current comprehension.
—-Jeffrey A. Krames, August 30, 2013