Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
One week, that is the time the Obama administration has to make its case to the American people who remain, across party lines, deeply suspicious of US intervention in Syria.
This issue, more than any other in recent times, seems to be one that splits the country’s political elite – residing in Washington and Virginia – from the nation’s citizens – residing everywhere else. That is why, despite the formidable words of the political leaders, support for this action remains muted at best.
The problem for the US administration lies with the American people’s concerns regarding our involvement in yet another military conflict in a faraway land that poses no immediate danger to the United States or its allies but will put the lives of their sons and daughters at risk.
Having been burned by Washington’s actions in Iraq, voters are understandably hesitant to write another check for this action and have not been helped by their government’s lack of clear communication on the case for war.
I do not support our involvement in Syria but since it seems likely that we will be entering this conflict, this post is about the actions the administration could take to turn public opinion in its favor.
To begin with, international support for this action will be muted since the US will not get the full support of the United Nations and that is a problem because the American people still believe in the UN’s participation in any international military action.
However, Washington can still make a strong coalition by involving those nations who are most directly threatened by Assad i.e. the Gulf nations.
This coalition can help greatly with funding this conflict and I’ll get to that in a bit.
Let’s first talk about proof: The Obama administration has not shown US citizens clear evidence of the Syrian president’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Everyone knows chemical weapons were used but did Assad use them? If the administration believes that to be the case then it needs to declassifying as much intelligence as possible and show detailed information of who gave what orders, where the missiles came from, etc.
Washington must also wait for, and then use, the UN inspectors report as soon as its available to bolster its case. (Since Washington has to wait a week for the Senate vote, this shouldn’t be a problem.)
Going back to the point about a Gulf coalition, Washington must show the American people that we will not be funding this war by ensuring and communicating the financial support provided by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, etc.
The administration also needs to communicate what the day after the bombing will look like in Syria. How will the additional refugees be handled? How will we control the better trained but anti-American rebels who will surely take advantage of a weakened Assad?
Since the Senate resolution forbids US troop presence in the country, will Gulf troops go into Syria and ensure our weapons do not fall into the wrong hands?
There are a lot of questions about our involvement in Syria and none of them have been communicated to the American people.
Washington is fixated on the political fight but it should tell the country’s citizens why its going into Syria, who will be with us when we go and what will happen after we, or our weapons, flatten Damascus.