No military solution in Syria, either

Updated: 2013-08-30 11:22

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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US President Barack Obama spoke passionately on Wednesday at the 50th anniversary marking the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King Jr on Aug 28, 1963.

However, the two African Americans who both won the Nobel Peace Prize appear starkly different. While King, a civil rights movement leader, is widely known for his advocacy of non-violence even in the face of violent police actions against blacks, Obama clearly feels compelled to use force now, as demonstrated in his pledge in the past days in the Syria case. That is in spite of the fact that he repeatedly said before that there is no military solution in the case of Iraq.

Obama has not even bothered this time to obtain authorization from the United Nations Security Council before vowing military action in Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Bashar al-Assad government, an accusation that has not convinced the world.

Back in 2003, the world was angry when George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq before exhausting diplomatic measures. However, the Bush administration at least sent its Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN to make a case, albeit with faulty evidence provided by the US intelligence community.

Ironically, Obama then vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq while Secretary of State John Kerry, then a Senator, called for exhausting all diplomatic means before launching military strikes.

While Obama is eager to launch cruise missiles, Kerry is wasting the joint diplomatic efforts he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made in the past months to hold an international peace conference on Syria by bringing together representatives from the government and different rebel groups.

Among Americans, the backing for military intervention in Syria is only 25 percent on the precondition that Assad has used chemical weapons. Otherwise support for the strike is only 9 percent, according to Ipsos/Reuters survey.

The Arab world, which suffered from regional chaos from Western military interventions in the past decade, has declined to back a retaliatory military strike this time.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon objected to a US military strike in a statement issued on Wednesday, urging members to explore all diplomatic options to bring all Syrian parties to the negotiating table, stressing that there is no military solution to the crisis.

Ban has also been blunt in his opposition to the flow of weapons into Syria, saying that "we must ask what have those arms have achieved but more bloodshed".

The biggest blow to Obama and his British ally David Cameron came on Thursday when the British Parliament rejected military actions against Syria.

While the same lively and heated debate in the US Congress is lacking, many US lawmakers have warned Obama that he should ask Congress for approval before launching a strike, a suggestion Obama does not seem to care much about.

While Obama may still go it alone in order to salvage the credibility of his words, not really to protect the Syrian civilians, there is no doubt that such military actions will result in more ruins and chaos not just in Syria, but also the region, already mired in endless conflicts. We have seen that in both the case of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The saying in the US goes that you break it, you own it and fix it. But in both Iraq and Afghanistan, that is obviously not the case, despite the trillions of dollars spent there by US taxpayers. That situation will be worse if the US only plans hit-and-run military actions in Syria.

Obama should drop his plan for military action in Syria. By doing so, he may feel losing face for not keeping his "red line" promise or the latest vow of military strikes, but he could avoid losing face big time by not creating a humanitarian disaster much bigger than the one in Iraq.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail:

(China Daily USA 08/30/2013 page15)