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No military resolution to Syrian crisis

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-31 08:15

No military resolution to Syrian crisisUS President Barack Obama spoke passionately at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King Jr. on Aug 28, 1963. But the two African Americans appear starkly different despite both being Nobel Peace Prize winners.

While King, a civil rights leader, is widely known for his advocacy of non-violence even in the face of violent police action against blacks, Obama feels compelled to use force against Syria. It is another matter that he is on record saying that there is no military resolution to the Syrian crisis.

Obama did not even bother to get the authorization of the United Nations Security Council before considering an attack on Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Bashar al-Assad government, an accusation that has not convinced the world.

In 2003, the world was angry when former US president George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. However, the Bush administration at least sent Colin Powell, then secretary of state, to the UN to make a case, albeit with falsified evidence from US intelligence operatives.

Ironically, Obama had opposed the invasion of Iraq while current Secretary of State John Kerry, then a senator, wanted Bush to try all diplomatic means before launching an attack.

While Obama is eager to launch cruise missiles against Syria, Kerry is wasting the joint diplomatic efforts he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made over the past months to hold an international peace conference on Syria by inviting representatives of different rebel groups along with government officials to talks.

Among Americans, the support for military intervention in Syria is only 25 percent that too on condition that Assad has indeed used chemical weapons. Otherwise, the support for an attack is only 9 percent, according to an Ipsos/Reuters survey. And the Arab world, which has been suffering the consequences of Western military interventions over the past decade, has this time declined to back a retaliatory military strike against Syria.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, too, is against a US military strike and issued a statement on Wednesday urging UN member countries to explore all diplomatic options to bring all Syrian parties to the negotiating table. Apart from emphasizing that there is no military resolution to the crisis, Ban has strongly opposed the flow of weapons into Syria, saying that "we must ask (is) what have those arms achieved but more bloodshed".

The biggest blow to Obama and his British ally, Prime Minister David Cameron, came on Thursday when the UK Parliament rejected military action against Syria. While a similar lively and heated debate in US Congress is lacking, many US lawmakers have warned Obama that he should seek Congress' approval before launching a strike, a suggestion the president does not seem to care much about.

While Obama could go it alone against Syria to "keep his words" and not really to protect Syrian civilians there is no doubt that a military strike will result in more chaos and disaster not just in Syria, but also the entire region which is already mired in conflict. We have seen that in the case of Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

You break it, you own it and fix it is a popular saying in the US, and Americans believe in it. But the US did not follow it either in Iraq or in Afghanistan despite wasting trillions of dollars of US taxpayers' money. The situation in Syria will be worse if the US plans a hit-and-run military action against Assad.

Obama should see reason, drop his plan for military action and seek non-violent solutions. By doing so, he may feel a loss of face for not fully honoring his ambiguous promise of taking action against the Syrian government if it crosses the "red line", but he could avoid losing face big time by not creating a humanitarian crisis larger in scale than the one in Iraq.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

(China Daily 08/31/2013 page5)

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