The President’s Thin Red Line
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What does it mean to cross our Presidents “Red Line”, and in so doing, America’s as well. Our president has often spoke of a “Red Line ” and has warned Syrian leader Bashar Assad about using chemical weapons saying, “Wielding them”, would cross a “Red Line” and be a “game changer” for U.S. policy, “with enormous consequences.” His heated rhetoric will now be put to the test. The administration is hesitant regarding the evidence of a chemical attack in Syria. Yet the President’s own Defense Department and close allies like Israel and Britain have already asserted that Syria used chemical weapons. So now we must consider the inner workings of our President’s mind when he gave certain statements. Specifically phrases like “game changer” and “enormous consequences”. What exactly do they mean to President Obama? He wants a comprehensive U.N. investigation, but with Def. Sec. Chuck Hagel confirming the use of chemical weapons on at least 3 casualties, we now see Mr. Assad’s footprint squarely across President Obama’s theoretical “Red Line.”
Though the use of widespread chemical-weapons inside Syria would be a devastating loss of humanity, we still must consider the risks to American forces attempting to destroy or seize chemical weapons. Given the dangers and complexities involved, the likelihood of casualties would be extremely high. Chemical weapons are after all typically used to dissuade advancing armies from invading. Taking military or covert action against Assad’s chemical weapons is therefore justified only where the global risks to American citizens or our allies are substantial. And in this post-w.m.d Iraq era the American people deserve to be presented with a substantial amount of evidence to be accepted by a skeptical and media savvy populace. The familiar middle-eastern backdrop might give the average American the feeling of Deja Vu regarding America’s wars of yesterday in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is important to note that this is a new country and a new set of circumstances that has brought us to this critical moment. With real human beings who may have been murdered by their own government using internationally banned chemical weapons. Though we saw President Bush’s “Red Line” crossed in 2006 when Kim Jong Il conducted his first nuclear test. The North Korean dictator crossed Mr. Bush’s theoretical red line twice more before his death, all without inflicting any major demerits to the specter that is U.S military superpower.
But what does it mean if President Obama allows his red line to be crossed unanswered? More importantly, will this act of foreign-policy provide further proof to a pre-nuclear Iran, or a belligerent Kim Jong Un that America’s “Red Line” can be crossed , even by a non nuclear state like Syria. Evidence of a chemical weapons attack can only really be substantiated by medical autopsy of an afflicted corpse. If an autopsy on a Syrian victim confirms that they were killed by chemical weapons, the distance that evidence must travel, through the chain of command, from our agents in Syria to Washington D.C, is no doubt what the administration is apprehensive about. Furthermore how would you prove such evidence exists without releasing information that is potentially damaging to the U.S intelligence gathering network? Like by confirming to an increasingly vicious Assad that we have agents in his country. From my perspective, 3 is a very small number of confirmed dead for a chemical weapons attack if past evidence in Northern Iraq is to be used as an example. This “Red Line” issue, could further be compounded if Iran continues to travel toward their “Nuclear Do not Cross line”. Israel has pledged that if that line is reached “drastic action will be taken”. The I.D.F speculates that Iran will reach that line anywhere from 2 -14 months from now. Historically speaking, Israel acts on threats of violence by making good on their own threats. Which might make this summer a very hot one indeed if action is taken vs. the allied kingdoms of Syria and Iran, pulling us into a larger engagement than most Americans are ready to stomach.
Before we further speculate on what the definition of our President’s hypothetical “Red Line” is, maybe we should ask someone who has taken orders, based on unsubstantiated evidence, given by President Obama in the past. Someone like a member of the super elite seal team 6 who took part in a raid in a country that has a known nuclear arsenal without that country’s permission, to kill an aged and bewildered Osama Bin Laden who was hiding in Pakistan. You could also take into account the large number of terrorists killed by drone strikes in countries that may not have even been privy to information about the strikes before they occurred. There is also the case of a single American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was never convicted before any judge or jury, yet ordered executed all the same by President Obama. It seems that a man like Assad would have a good amount to be worried about if it is his footprint found across our red line. After a year of fighting a ruthless civil war against his own civilian populace, his country has all but turned against him. Assad now controls as little as thirty percent of Syria. If the U.N confirms the use of chemical weapons, Russia, under the pressure of the international community will surely publicly reject Assad. Then it will be the P.O.T.U.S’s turn to show the world just what crossing his “Red Line” means, or forever lose the respect and, most importantly, the fear of all those who oppose the basic principles of humanity.
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