President Obama secured support for military action in Syria from the top House Republicans, Speaker Boehner, and Majority Leader Cantor, but to what end?
The President has previously stated that he isn’t interested in regime change, so ousting Assad by the US military doesn’t appear to be an option. Further, there has been some ‘bungling’ on whether there will be US troops on the ground.
Secretary of State John Kerry took both sides, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee,
“There will not be American troops on the ground with respect to the civil war,” Mr. Kerry said.
This does, however, leave the door open for troops on the ground for the purpose of securing potential chemical weapons, such as sarin, which Assad has been accused of deploying against his own people earlier this year.
Now, the goal for the US is to judge the appropriate level of response against Syria. Inaction would only encourage Hezbollah and Iran to further flaunt the lines established by the international community. An over-reaction would also have a rallying effect in the region, to the detriment of the United States.
Such a complex, and delicate international situation, requires a clear vision, and understanding of the multiple potential outcomes US intervention would generate.
Prior to taking office, President Nixon expressed his vision for international relations through several speeches and articles. One of his best known articles was Asia After Vietnam, which was published by Foreign Affairs and laid out his long-term view for the region after the Vietnam War ended.
In a separate campaign booklet, Nixon Speaks Out, President Nixon laid out his knowledge of the Middle East, and the constraints the region posed. The speech was titled, The Cradle of Civilization must not be its Grave.
“There are four fundamental facts of life that are evident in the Mid-east today:
First, the danger of war increases in direct ratio to the confidence of certain Arab leaders that they could win that war.
Second, the Soviet Union has the definite aggressive goal of extending its sphere of influence to include the Middle East…
Third, the United States has a firm and unwavering commitment to the national existence of Israel, repeated by four Presidents, and after Inauguration Day next year, it will be repeated by another President, whichever candidate is elected President of the United States.
Fourth, the foundation for permanent peace will be laid when hunger and disease and human misery have begun to disappear in the Arab world, and the breeding ground of bitterness and envy is removed.”
President Nixon went on to examine and clarify each of these constraints in greater detail.
While some of the characters have changed—the threats of the Arab world now include other fundamentalist Islamic nations, and Persian forces—other characters have only changed their names; the Soviet Union is now Russia, and remains one of our greatest antagonists in reaching an international consensus over how to approach the regional turmoil, and the Syrian problem.
There is a great deal any leader can learn from President Nixon’s approach to international relations, especially with regard to Russia and the Middle East.