NORMAN — President Obama has scored a victory of sorts with a Senate panel accepting military action in Syria.
But that’s a far cry from the broad-based international support such a mission demands. We note the rationale for striking Syria is to deter the future use of chemical weapons by that country and others. If the rest of the world lacks the incentive to join the Obama administration’s call, what’s the point?
It has been disheartening to watch the president and top members of his administration try to make the case in Washington and around the globe for action against the Syrian government. The Assad regime’s employment of sarin gas against its own people should have sparked widespread outrage.
Yet the response was muted, marked with hesitancy, uncertainty and doubts about claims the Syrian government was responsible.
The failure to build international consensus against the Assad government ultimately rests with the president. After all, he had previously put his own — and the nation’s — prestige at stake by warning of dire consequences if chemical weapons were used in Syria’s civil war.
With such a declaration, the administration should have been pressing its case globally, in preparation for the possibility Syria would wage chemical warfare. That effort alone would have served as a deterrent, and if an attack came anyway, a quick response would have been possible.
It is important to ask why the international community is so reticent about taking a strong stand against Syria. The reasons vary.
One factor is the skepticism regarding evidence of chemical weapons use. The invasion of Iraq on the grounds Saddam Hussein was hiding his chemical arsenal is still fresh in the world’s memory.
But it’s likely the main consideration is the lack of meaningful reforms in other Arab nations where long-time dictatorships have been overthrown in recent years. In countries such as Libya and Egypt, the so-called Arab Spring hasn’t exactly led to peace and democracy.