A Call to Action

Fellow US citizens:

I’ve lobbied my lawmakers.  I now need your help as our nation stands at a precipice.

Over a year ago, President Obama said publicly that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be regarded as a red line that would require US military involvement. On August 20, 2012, he said, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is: we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons … being utilized.” He continued, “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that would be enormous consequences if we start seeing … use of chemical weapons.”

To date, the NATO Secretary-General, French Intelligence, German Intelligence (BND) and the President have asserted that chemical weapons were used and that they were used by the Syrian military.

Last week, the President received bi-partisan support for action in Syria from the House Speaker, House Majority Leader and House Democratic Leader.  The Senate Majority Leader and House Foreign Relations Committee Chair appeared ready to begin drafting language for a resolution providing congressional support for military action. Still, significant Congressional resistance to that resolution threatens to do manifest harm to the US in the short and long terms.

Debating the value of that red line, at present, is pointless.  The President of the United States (regardless of what you think of his policies, presidency, or whether you trust him) made a public commitment of “enormous consequences” if chemical weapons were employed.  At this point, failure to act will have horrendous consequences for the US.

Failure to back up our rhetoric will completely and utterly obliterate any chance of the US (now or in the future) having any credibility in the region; not as peace makers, peace keepers or in any other capacity.

Some have said it’s too late to strike. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff assured the President that, a delayed attack will not be less effective than one which is launched in haste.  That assertion was recently supported by former head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, and the current Director of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin.

What is clear to those of us in the region however, is that if the US doesn’t act, if the Congress fails to support the President in this military action, the Middle East will view the US as feckless, cowardly, and ineffectual. Failure to strike will promote the precise narrative that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, and Osama bin Laden taught for decades.  It will embolden actions by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran against our allies in Europe and Israel as well as against the USA; as terrorists worldwide will know definitively—having been shown so—that the US will not act.

Failure of the Congress to act in support of military action now will prove to the world (China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan) and not just to the region that, the US is the paper tiger they’ve claimed we are for decades.

In the Middle East, if you make a threat you had better be willing to make good on it or be ready to have your flag tread on for centuries. 

We do not know with any certainly what military action will bring. But looking to our shared national past, we are reminded that we’ve faced immoral acts and unrighteous peril before and we did so with distinction.

On October 22, 1962, in a televised address to the nation and the world at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy said:

My fellow citizens, let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred … But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high-but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.

Our goal is not the victory of might but the vindication of right – not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this Hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

Please counsel courage to your members of Congress—this is one of those moments.  We must act now or know that if we do not, for millennia, people will talk about the time the US folded.

About the Author
Daniel “Doni” Fogel is the Vice President of the Jerusalem College of Technology. He previously held leadership roles at AIPAC and the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, Virginia, where he worked regularly with community leaders, Israeli government ministers and Knesset members, Congress members, and the foreign diplomatic corps.