Why does everyone believe Obama won’t intervene in Syria?

Sometimes I think I live in a different world. Northern Israel itself is world apart, and as an American volunteering up here I suppose I really do exist in a different paradigm. People living here see things differently than I do. Sometimes I’m reminded of this by the constant honking for no apparent reason on the highway, other times it’s the Jewish mom-like chiding from the volunteer madrichim, or the lack of bacon and cheese on my burger. For the past 20-something hours, it’s been the incessant verbal attacks on Obama for not issuing an executive order to attack Syria.

I watched his speech last night, so I’m confused why people think he’s backing off. I thought that Obama saying “I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets” made clear his personal opinion. If that wasn’t enough, the constant reiteration of need for US involvement should have done it. If I was playing a drinking game to that speech, taking a shot every time he said ‘chemical weapons,’ and a beer for each mention of ‘war,’ I would be hammered drunk writing this 19 hours later.

And yet, almost every opinion I have read since last night’s speech has been about how Obama is shirking off on his promise to respond, using the Congress as a scapegoat for inaction. Was there another speech that I missed? What’s wrong with a democratic approach to military intervention? Bush is not the U.S. president anymore, and this is a big deal, so a little caution might be prudent. Speaking of Bush, let us not forget America’s history with claiming a foreign dictator has WMDs – another Iraq would be just as detrimental to Israel as it would be to Obama.

I applaud the president’s decision for several reasons. First off, this gives the UN investigators time to release their report, which I hope will bolster the claims against Assad. Like most people, I have little respect for the UN, but it’s possible their findings will back the claims against Assad.

Secondly, going to Congress sets a precedent for unity before war. I like this, and believe the legislature will vote overwhelmingly in favor of action. Sure, I believe there is a time for immediate action, but as it stands now this looks like another Iraq and Obama would be foolish to order an immediate strike.

The decision made by Obama will be stronger in the long run. With a unified constituency at home, prior congressional approval, and the likely corroborating information from the UN, the U.S. will be able to commit more fully than it otherwise could. Acting out of turn could have turned disastrous. Whether the U.S. takes action three days ago, or in three weeks doesn’t appear to matter from a military standpoint. If Assad gassed his own people, the damage has already been done.

Maybe the UN investigation will turn out to be nothing, maybe congress will vote in favor of inaction, and maybe Israel will remain alone. Or maybe I am living in the world where Obama said what he means, and will do what he says – I can only hope.

About the Author
Bill Crotty was a 20-something guy just learnin' how to Israel. He lived in several small towns and kibbutzim across the Western Galil for a year in 2013-2014. Then in 2016 he returned to Israel, for a year of work in Jerusalem with the JDC and CIMI.