Will the history books record these past couple of weeks as the point when the tide finally turned against our interventionist foreign policy?
We began September with the Obama Administration on the verge of launching Tomahawk missiles at Syria. The missiles were needed, the administration claimed, to punish the Syrian government for using poison gas on its own people. There were reports that in addition to missiles, the administration was planning airstrikes and possibly even more military action against Syria. The talks of a punishing “shot across the bow” to send a message to the Syrian government also escalated, as some discussed the need to degrade the Syrian military to help change the regime. They refused to rule out a US ground invasion of Syria.
Secretary of State John Kerry even invoked an old bogeymen that had worked so many times before. Assad was another Hitler, we were told, and failure to attack would equate to another Neville Chamberlain-like appeasement.
The administration released its evidence to back up the claim that the Syrian government was behind the gassing, and the president asked Congress to authorize him to use force against Syria. Polls showed that the American people had very little interest in getting involved in another war in the Middle East, and as the administration presented no solid evidence for its claim, public support eroded further. The media, as usual, was pushing war propaganda.
Then something incredible happened. It started in the British parliament, with a vote against participating in a US-led attack on Syria. The UK had always reliably backed the US when it came to war overseas, and the vote was a shock. Though the House and Senate leadership lined up behind the president’s decision to attack Syria, the people did not. Support among the rank and file members of the Senate and House began to evaporate, as thousands of Americans contacted their representatives to express outrage over the president’s plan. The vote looked to be lost in the House and uncertain in the Senate. Then even Senators began to feel the anger of the American people, and it looked like a devastating and historic loss for the president was coming.
The administration and its pro-war allies could not bear to lose a vote in Congress that would have likely shut the door completely on a US attack, so they called off the vote. At least for now. It would have been far better to have had the president’s request for war authorization debated and voted down in the House and Senate, but even without a no vote it is clear that a major shift has taken place. A Russian proposal to secure and dismantle the Syrian government’s chemical weapons was inspired, it seems, by John Kerry’s accidental suggestion that such a move could avert a US strike. Though the details have yet to be fully worked out, it seems the Russia plan, agreed to by the Syrian government, gives us hope that a US attack will be avoided.
The American people have spoken out against war. Many more are now asking what I have been asking for quite some time: why is it always our business when there is civil strife somewhere overseas? Why do we always have to be the ones to solve the world’s problems? It is a sea change and I am very encouraged. We have had a great victory for the cause of peace and liberty and let’s hope we can further build on it.