“It is beyond our means to right every wrong,” Obama said. “But when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Alas, this approach comes late in the game. The time to have dealt with Syria may well have passed. The civil war had gotten out of hand; American inaction has cost lives. Obama himself stated that the U.S. knew that the Syrian military was preparing a gas attacks. “In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas,” the president said.
They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded.
And the United State did what? Did Obama warn Bashar al-Assad that American would hold him accountable for what he was about to do? Did he say that America would blow the Syrian military sky high? If Obama said any of those things he did not mention it tonight. Instead, he confessed to be a witness to crime –mute, inert and morally culpable. It has taken this president too long to understand that evil must be dealt with. The recognition of that came late in his speech –maybe too late to salvage his presidency and certainly too late for the Syrian children who were gassed.