In the aftermath of a reported chemical weapons attack in Syria, President Obama said he was nearing a decision on direct U.S. military involvement. The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government had been labeled a “red line” by the Obama Administration that, if crossed, would prompt a military response. Obama also claimed that the Syrian civil war was connected to America’s “core national interests.”
Asked about claims by anti-regime activists in Syria that Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons in an attack that was said to have killed more than 1,300 people, Obama responded that officials are “right now gathering information” and that “what we’ve seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern.”…
He quickly followed up with a warning, however, that “core national interests” of the U.S. are now involved in Syria’s civil war, “both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.”
A highly debatable point especially given that the Syrian rebels are deeply tied to Al Qaeda which the U.S. government is still at war with. Arguably, a victory for the Syrian rebels would give Al Qaeda greater influence and resources in the region. If we are going to talk about national interests, let’s talk about national interests.
Protecting U.S. bases is also an interesting justification but would quickly lead to awkward questions such as “why does the U.S. have all these bases?” Nor would it inspire confidence that Obama was actually looking to roll back military forces in the region.
For their part, the American people want nothing to do with the civil war in Syria. In fact, they even opposed arming the rebels. Congressional support is also less than robust and was split on arming rebels – direct military action would likely be even more controversial. So if President Obama plans on escalating already unpopular U.S. involvement in the Syrian Civil War on the side of Al Qaeda, he better make a very compelling argument or there will be a serious backlash.