Opinion

Opinion

Simons’ Saturday Column: Obama’s decision on war important and complex

August 31, 2013

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Earlier this week former President George W. Bush was interviewed prior to a charity golf event for the benefit of wounded veterans and their families.

The interviewer tried his best to get Bush to comment on the current situation in Syria, what he thought of Syrian President Bashar Assad and other attempts to get the former president to say what action he thinks President Obama should take relative to Syria.

Bush smiled and acknowledged he realized the reporter was trying to get him to say what he thinks Obama should do, but he made it clear he was not going to get publicly involved.

The one thing Bush did acknowledge is that there is no greater nor more difficult decision a president makes than whether or not to send Americans into a war. He said American forces are the finest in the world and that these men and women will do what their commander in chief wishes. They are committed to this country, loyal and brave, but he was not going to suggest what action Obama should take.

Asked his thoughts about the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, he said that tragedy should continue to serve as a warning of what foreign interests are capable of and the importance of being alert and aware of dangerous situations abroad and how they can affect our situation here at home.

He, and another veteran with multiple tours of action in the Iraq and Afghanistan fighting, emphasized the loyalty of those serving in this country’s armed forces and that they are ready at a moment’s notice to follow the commands of the president.

At this time, very few individuals know what President Obama is thinking about committing American forces in the Syrian war. Most Americans would acknowledge Obama faces an extremely difficult decision. Some highly partisan Americans will suggest the president is so consumed with raw politics that a good deal of his thinking is colored by what is best for him and his administration in the eyes of voters.

The vast majority of Americans are tired of war and sick and angry of the toll and price Americans have paid for the Iraq/Afghanistan fighting. At the same time, what is America’s role and what is in the best current and long-range interest of America?

At times such as this it is unfortunate there are not more military veterans serving in Congress — men and women who have experienced firsthand a hot war scene; men and women who know the horrors of war and who would be the most cautious in committing young Americans to another war. And, yet, these same individuals probably have a deeper sense of the role of America and the role it must play in protecting the best interests and safety of this country.

Obama finds himself in a tough, very tough, position. He is not a veteran, and it is likely there are fewer veterans in Congress today than at any time since before World War II. It’s one thing to be a lawmaker, a member of the House or Senate, but they don’t know war and the costs of war. Eisenhower, the late President Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and the late Gerald Ford were the last presidents who knew war on a firsthand basis. Nixon and Carter served in the Navy, Reagan served in the Air Force and Bush “43” was in the Texas Air National Guard, but neither Clinton nor Obama was in active military duty. Obama served as a community organizer prior to entering the Senate.

All were, and are, honorable men, but only four presidents in the past 60 or so years have experienced the horrors of war.

It’s easy to serve as an armchair president, but Obama must make the final decision. Whatever he does, he will be second-guessed and his motives will be questioned. At this time no one knows how much advice he will solicit from those serving as the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, or of those in Congress who have distinguished themselves by their military service. Hopefully, his partisan political advisers, and Obama himself, will discard any political considerations.

Obama promised to make major changes in this country if he should be elected and he has indeed made many changes in historic and traditional actions. What factors will he use in regard to how he considers the proper “fundamental changes” he calls for as they apply to committing U.S. forces into the Syrian war and the possible escalation of fighting into other countries?

What path does he consider best for the country, and why?

Comments

Keith 1 year, 6 months ago

' "Some highly partisan Americans will" suggest the president is so consumed with raw politics that a good deal of his thinking is colored by what is best for him and his administration in the eyes of voters.'

You can just say "I", it makes the sentence shorter and clearer.

Keith 1 year, 6 months ago

"Reagan served in the Air Force and Bush “43” was in the Texas Air National Guard"

Comedy served up in an editorial, how droll.

elliottaw 1 year, 6 months ago

The United States has formally declared war against foreign nations five separate times, each upon prior request by the President of the United States. .........On at least 125 occasions, the President has acted without prior express military authorization from Congress.[16] These include instances in which the United States fought in the Philippine-American War from 1898–1903, in Nicaragua in 1927, as well as the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999.

voevoda 1 year, 6 months ago

fmrl, Your reference to "the CIA/Mossad" suggests that you are propounding the untrue theory that there is a secret Jewish conspiracy to destroy the world. I certainly hope that you would not endorse such anti-Semitic nonsense.

yourworstnightmare 1 year, 6 months ago

Aside from the partisan nonsense in this piece (e.g. "community organizer"), Mr. Simons generally sums up the situation well.

Congress should most definitely be involved in this decision, and I would argue should vote on any resolution that the President puts forth. Unfortunately, the last 30 years have seen a consolidation of presidential power especially with regard to military actions, most evident in the Cheney/Rumsfeld years.

Congress should issue a bipartisan request to vote on any resolution about military action, because we are not immediately threatened by Syria. However, the President has precedence to act alone in this matter. I hope he seeks Congressional advice and approval, but I fear he won't.

In the past 30 years, the job of Commander in Chief has been consolidated away from Congress, and thus presidents are free to (or are forced to) act without Congress.

The president and the administration should argue their case, but at the end of the day, Congress should vote as to whether the President executes his plan.

rtwngr 1 year, 6 months ago

Community organizer is a major part of a very small resume that is Barack Hussein Obama. Other than that he taught at a college and was a senator at the state and national level. He had no experience in international affairs. He has never run a business or made a payroll. He was never the executive over any other government entity until being elected president. The left could not have elected a man less qualified.

parrothead8 1 year, 6 months ago

And yet the country is in better shape now than when we elected him. Amazing.

Trumbull 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't like the gridlock we have been getting from congress lately. But I'll take it in this instance. A retaliation strike is no good and will make matters worse. It will complicate matters. Getting involved in a civil war is not good and the US has failed at intervention repeatedly.

All we should do is aggressively strive for a diplomatic solution and work this one through the UN.

kernal 1 year, 6 months ago

Putin has continually vetoed any intervention in Syria. Unless he agrees with sending UN troops into Syria, and it's doubtful he will since he is an ally of Assad's, the likelihood of UN troops is slim to none.

jack22 1 year, 6 months ago

No, Bush 43 was at a cocktail party in Texas during the Vietnam War, don't confuse him with a true Veteran who served his country during a time of war. His experience did not stop him rushing into war.

rtwngr 1 year, 6 months ago

Really? Was it the same party that ran the whole war? Did it float around officer housing or something?

Anyone that serves in the military, in any capacity, is part of a larger whole regardless of their respective role. To denigrate any person who has served in uniform is insulting to all who served in uniform for our country. I suggest you try it, it might give you a different perspective on what this country really means.

Gary Anderson 1 year, 6 months ago

"To denigrate any person who has served in uniform is insulting to all who served in uniform for our country"...Timothy McVeigh served...and so did I.

jack22 1 year, 6 months ago

It was the same party that ran away from the war. He was floating around in a raft in a swimming pool drinking a beer.

tomatogrower 1 year, 6 months ago

So rtwngr, you condemn those "swift boat" people who denigrated Kerry?

Carol Bowen 1 year, 6 months ago

If the U.S. does anything to Syria, we risk opening another can of worms. The whole area is unstable. Did we learn nothing when we took out Sadam Hussein? Iraq did not recover. Hostile groups are stronger. There's no telling what would happen with Syria, its allies, and its enemies. The only possible consideration would be our own bases in that region. Which is better? Attack Syria to protect our defenses or not attack Syria to protect our defenses?

James Minor 1 year, 6 months ago

The Syrian conflict is a difficult choice for America and we need to think carefully about getting into another conflict. We may think this is a bomb a few times and our job is done, but in past conflicts America had to spend money to rebuild that country. Since a majority of the UN chooses not to intervene America should do the same. What sense does it make to get involved in a civil conflict and a few years later the country does not want to be our friend? America has many problems at home and money spent in this conflict could be spent helping Americans at home. Unless there is serious risk to Homeland Security - America should sit this one out!

Armstrong 1 year, 6 months ago

There is no clear cut answer in this scenario. The facts are however our enemies are killing our enemies therefore the Middle East is killing itself off. Let them sort it out.

Stop_the_Madness 1 year, 6 months ago

I agree. It is non of our business and we have enough problems in the USA.

James Minor 1 year, 6 months ago

This is a good time to force the UN to require countries to join together and engage in this conflict. If the UN won't do that then the US must stay out of the conflict. I am opposed to the use of gas on innocent people and agree with the President that this type of activity must be stopped. I am also opposed to America going at it alone. We must have other countries support, financially and physically, in order to show the world's dislike for this behavior. America can't save the world and in this case it may be best to let the conflict continue to show its ugly hand until the world says this is enough.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 6 months ago

Mr. Simon offers nothing in this column. It is the same with the the current Republican Party.

The Middle East is a mess.

Charles L Bloss Jr 1 year, 6 months ago

I dispute your statement that they are all honorable men. Obama is a liar, and his actions while in office have been far from honorable. So have those of his subordinates. Now we hear talk of arming the rebels, something that should have been done long, long ago. America cannot, and should not, be the world's policeman. In situations such as Syria, we should give the rebels, who are fighting the evil dictator, arms. That should be the extent of our involvement. It is not easy to watch people killed in a most hideous way by an evil dictator. We should not let it draw us into their conflict, beyond arming the rebels fighting the dictator.

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