Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, was disappointed that there was no statement of "action" or policy thrust in yesterday's speech by the President of the United States, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King "I have a dream" speech on the Mall in Washington. Matthews, a democrat, is steeped in Washington politics, and Washington's political culture. It is a culture of taking action, including military action, as nearly the first option, regardless of the situation.
Today, and for the next few days, the President and the country will harbour, consider, ponder, and reflect on whether or not to take military action to "punish the Assad regime" for having used chemical weapons on the Syrian people. With France, Great Britain and the U.S. all concurring in the Security Council that military action (embedded in the resolution proposed by Great Britain, but rejected by both Russia and China) be approved.
However, will all the public talk of a bravado, macho, military, hard power nature, the United States has to face both its long-term and its short-term history, especially in Iraq where war was declared on the basis of Saddam Hussein's having (not using) weapons of mass destruction, only to discover that the intelligence was wrong.
There is clearly a national and a global need for all countries to bring to the world's attention the detailed, specific and irrefutable evidence that Assad did indeed use chemical weapons, and then there is also a national (U.S.) and global interest and need for a different kind of resolution to the Security Council, one that places the evidence in front of the Council and the world, and provides sanctions against Assad, and charges him with war crimes, and forwards the indictment to the International Criminal Court.
That is what the court was created for. And such a charge, especially if it brought a conviction and appropriate punishment, would undoubtedly have more impact on Assad and any other leader contemplating the use of weapons of mass destruction in the future.
On the other hand, bombing Syria, including her airforce, and perhaps even her chemical weapons storage facilities can only generate the most heinous of probabilities, one of which is that the Al Qaeda elements fighting in Syria could gain control of those weapons and use them against the United States and its people.
How ironic is it that the world's greatest power is not yet a signatory to the ICC fearing that its laws and prosecutions could and would be used against U.S. personnel should such a case arise. Well, if U.S. personnel comply with the international laws and protocols established by the ICC, why would such a fear be necessary.
All the king's horses, and all the king's men, and all the military might in the world, of which the U.S. both has and exports the largest component of any country, will not put those chemical weapons back in storage, nor the people they killed and maimed back together again, nor can they assure the world that deploying even the most surgical strike against Assad will not embolden him, and potentially wreak the most feared and most likely backlash....use of the very weapons the world rightly abhors against the people of the United States.
Mr. Obama, make some history today, or at least this week.
Sign the United States to the membership in the ICC, or if that is not feasible in this time frame, convince one of the signatories to the treaty that established the ICC to bring the evidence to the court, and request an formal indictment of Assad, and let the world see that military hard power has finally shifted to a secondary from a primary weapon of international influence.
Mr. Obama, prove Winston Churchill wrong, by doing the right thing before all other options have been exhausted...and the occasion could not be more timely.