On Friday’s broadcast of Hugh Hewitt’ s radio show, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said President Barack Obama should handle the Syrian crisis by taking significant action or no action at all.
Hewitt compared the present-day United States to the one the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke of in 1943 at Harvard in his famous “price of greatness” speech. Churchill had applauded the United States for stepping up as a world power in the middle of World War II. That attitude about America’s role in the world is far different today than Churchill had espoused back then, Hewitt said.
Krauthammer cautioned Hewitt on comparing World War II to Syria, but questioned Obama’s competence regarding Syria, demonstrated by the way he has handled it to date.
“There is a difference of scale between the Second World War and the Syrian Civil War,” Krauthammer said. “That was an existential struggle where the future of civilization was surely in the balance. It could be that Syria will develop into a World War I-like world conflict, but that is fairly unlikely right now. It is not a conflict in which the existence of ways of life is at stake. So I’m willing to grant that, and I’m willing there are reasons for staying out, and I think they’ve been articulated by the opponents. The reason I’m for staying out is because this president doesn’t know what he’s doing. And he, unless he says in public that he is, if you’re going to use the military, you use it for effect. And if the effect is to alter the balance and the trajectory of the civil war so that Assad falls, and therefore Hezbollah, Iran and others are set back, then I am all in favor of this.”
“But I need to hear it from the president, and I don’t hear it,” Krauthammer continued. “I certainly don’t hear it from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It isn’t that America has to act here. The world is absolutely passive. The whole notion of the international community is a ridiculous fiction that liberals have invented. There is no international community. There’s the United States and their allies, and all the rest of the world have different national interests, and don’t give a damn about stuff that we give a damn about, like chemical weapons, international norms and international decency. The question is will we act in this affair in our own national interest, because we perceive it that way? If we do, then we have to do something serious. So my argument is simply about seriousness. If Obama wants to do something real, I’m all for it. It looks as if he wants to do nothing, surely judging him from the last two years. That’s been the message of everything he’s done, including his astonishing zigzag on Saturday when he tossed it all over to Congress.”
Krauthammer said should Obama not take a more aggressive strategy against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria then it could ultimately do more harm than good.
“I would argue that if we do a pinprick, it’s even worse,” he said. “If Assad walks out of the smoke and the ashes three days later, vindicated, laughing at the United States, showing how the U.S., the muscle-bound giant, is too afraid to do anything serious, that’s worse. What do you think was the result, the psychological effect of the equivalent, which was 1998, two embassies were blown to bits in Africa, al Qaeda takes responsibility. Bill Clinton comes back from the Vineyard — this is during the Lewinsky affair — and he lobs a few Cruise missiles at, what, a million-and-a-half dollars each, into empty, $10-dollar tents in Afghanistan. That energized al Qaeda. That made the U.S. look absolutely feckless.”
“If we had done nothing, you could say well, you know, we’re preparing for something else, we’re going to do something serious,” Krauthammer continued. “But to make the big stand, to give the big speeches he did from the Oval Office, we’re not going to stand around to do what is essentially nothing is worse. I’d rather keep my powder dry and let them know we’re watching them, maybe given that there’ll be a more serious argument within the Congress, and in the administration, of doing something serious about this. So I don’t take the conclusion that lobbing a missile or two into an empty building, and you and I know they’re empty, because they’ve been given the target list. Is it going to achieve anything, not just militarily, but anything psychologically?”
Krauthammer encouraged Obama to make the same case he had made to Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain for intervention in Syria to the American people on Tuesday with the aim of persuading them to support action that is more serious than that “pinprick.”
“I would like to hear him say what he said to Graham and to McCain in the Oval Office when they met last week,” he said, “which is yes, I think, well, I do want to alter the balance, we’re going to hit him pretty hard, we’re going to send trainers right down to the rebels, we’re going to send them serious weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft. We know the rebels are problematic, but… And this is a completely different and longer argument, and I’m afraid we’re not going to have enough time. I think if you have to choose the evils here, it is clear that the rebels are far the lesser of two evils than the Shiite-Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis, with Russia behind it — infinitely less dangerous.”