Syria, Obama and America

Ten thoughts on the current crisis:

1. American red lines cannot be crossed.

President Barack Obama has said that “Assad must go” and that the use of chemical weapons would constitute, in America’s eyes, a “red line.” If proclamations of an American president to other countries end up meaning nothing, America will be taken less seriously by both foes and friends. The consequent harm to America — and therefore to world peace — would be incalculable. 

Only the threat of American — not European and not United Nations — retaliation keeps evil regimes from doing more evil. The less Iran (and proxies like Hezbollah), North Korea, China and Russia fear America, the more aggressive they will be. 

Those who argue that America has no vital interest in Syria do not understand what Iran, Hezbollah, North Korea, China and Russia understand.

2. Asking Congress to authorize a military strike against the Assad regime was unnecessary, irresponsible and self-serving. 

It was unnecessary because every recent president — Democrat and Republican — has taken military action without congressional authorization, including Obama himself in Libya. 

It was irresponsible because he knew that congressional approval was not at all guaranteed.

And it was self-serving because he knew that if Congress voted no, he could shift the blame for American inaction from himself: “Look, I tried — blame Congress.”

3. If we attack Syria, most of the world will thank us — silently.

Most of the world understands that certain types of weapons must not be used. That is why “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases [and] bacteriological methods of warfare” were banned 88 years ago by the Geneva Protocol. But the world is largely composed of cowards. 

4. If the American response does not weaken Assad, it will be worse than no response.

This should need no explanation. But if it does, here is one: The world’s leaders are largely divided between the immoral, the amoral and the morally weak. But none are so stupid as to be fooled by a tepid American response. 

The statement by Secretary of State John Kerry that the American action against Assad would be an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort” may be the first such declaration in advance of a military move in world history.

5. An American strike is most unlikely to begin a war. 

Who exactly will wage a war against the United States for responding to Syria’s use of a universally banned weapon of mass destruction? Russia? China? Iran? Syria? Venezuela? Perhaps the Iran/Hezbollah/Syria axis will try to generate a terror attack, but that is not the same as a war. And Americans who fear that any military response will lead to American troops fighting in Syria are responding to the past, not the present.

6. Iran is a far greater threat to America than al-Qaeda; and Iran, not al-Qaeda, is an existential threat to Israel.

This is the key consideration, and the one opponents of intervention miss. They say that what matters to them is whether America’s national interest is involved. Well, then, what concerns America’s national interest more than weakening Iran?

7. The left owes Republicans and conservatives a profound and public apology.

It has been an almost universally expressed charge on the left that Republican and conservative opposition to Barack Obama has been race-based. How then would leftists such as Paul Krugman and Chris Matthews explain the support given the president by conservatives such as John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Bill Kristol, Bill O’Reilly and the Wall Street Journal? 

The answer is that they have no explanation. The left doesn’t smear the right because the smears are true; it smears the right because doing so has been the left’s primary weapon against ideological opponents for nearly a hundred years — ever since Stalin called Trotsky a fascist.

And this weapon works. Only about one out of five Americans considers himself a leftist. Why, then, do so many non-leftists vote left? Because they have been led to believe — from elementary school to adulthood — that the right is malevolent and dangerous. 

8. The primary, if not only, reason Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid support the president is that he is a Democrat. 

If President Mitt Romney had called for attacking the Assad regime, is there one American who believes that either Pelosi or Reid would have supported him? 

9. Our crushing national debt is not due to war, but to entitlements.

The arguments that, given our financial crisis and domestic needs, we cannot afford to attack Syria are false. Our debt is due to overspending on domestic programs. And as regards domestic needs, was there ever a time or ever a war that some Americans did not argue that our debt is too large for us to afford some war? If meeting all domestic needs were a prerequisite to waging war, America would never have waged a war.

10. If the United States chooses not to be the world’s policeman, there will either be another policeman or no policeman. 

In either case, the world will be much more dangerous place for us and for everyone else. It is therefore profoundly in America’s self-interest, and equally in the interest of humanity, that America be the world’s policeman.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of His latest book is the New York Times best seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012)