On Wednesday, President Obama told reporters that international credibility is on the line in regard to how the world chooses to respond to the "reported" use of chemical weapons in Syria.
"My credibility is not on the line," Obama said during a press conference in Sweden, as reported by USA Today. "International credibility is on the line. ... The question is, how credible is the international community when it says this is an international norm that has to be observed? The question is how credible is Congress when it passes a treaty saying we have to forbid the use of chemical weapons?"
A few hours later, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to authorize the president to use limited force against Syria. According to a USA Today report, "The Senate resolution would limit hostilities to 60 or 90 days, narrow the conflict to Syria's borders and prohibit U.S. troops on Syrian soil."
While any immediate action still seems a few weeks away, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has already stepped up its rhetoric to defend itself and take "every measure" to respond to an attack from the U.S.
"The Syrian government will not change position even if there is World War III," Faisal Muqdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, told AFP as reported by news outlet Al Arabiya. "Syria has taken every measure to retaliate against ... an aggression," he added, though he refused to offer any clarification on what that might mean.
Consider a recent report from CNN, which quoted Secretary of State John Kerry ("beyond any reasonable doubt"), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ("very clear") and Pres. Obama ("high confidence") on the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Britain, France and Germany have backed the U.S.'s claims. However, British Parliament voted against allowing Prime Minister David Cameron to commit forces to the strike. And "French President François Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck used a joint news conference in Paris to call for action against Syria, even as France remained the lone European country willing to carry out military strikes as part of a possible coalition with Washington," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Still troubling, as the CNN report points out, is that "A declassified report by the White House does not divulge all details of the evidence the United States is looking at. And it remains unclear what the ‘streams of intelligence' cited in the report may be and how they were collected."
That just doesn't sit well with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Wednesday said the West's case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Instead, he told the Associated Press that his country is "developing a plan of action in case the United States does attack Syria without United Nations approval, but he declined to go into specifics."
Putin also said that if the U.S. and its allies could provide sufficient evidence that Assad's forces carried out a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb, Russia would consider allowing United Nations action against Syria.
It seems President Bush's case for action against Iraq, in 2003, is still fresh on everyone's minds. Then, evidence was presented at the United Nations to show Saddam Hussein was looking to create weapons of mass destruction, as well as strong links to the country's leadership and al-Qaeda, much of which was later disproved by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency.
The proof should be clearly laid out for all Washington lawmakers; It should be clearly communicated to Americans and the rest of the world. Only then, should a clear mission, with the backing of most if not all of our allies, be undertaken. Anything short of that is sure to have negative repercussions, not only on Syria and the rest of that region, but on the U.S. and its increasingly dimming luster in the eyes of the world.
Consider this: In a report for news website Mother Jones, reporter Kevin Drum quotes liberal writer Paul Waldman, who recently pointed out that the U.S. has launched "a significant overseas assault every 40 months since 1963."
"Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits," Drum writes. "But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action ... the rest of the world just doesn't see it that way."
While we still strongly believe that U.S. response against Syria is the wrong move to make, we do believe the president is going about making his case the right way. By earning lawmakers (and, hopefully, the American people's) approval, as well as that of key allies abroad, this doesn't have to be yet another solo action by a bully nation. There's still much to hash out, in the meantime, but we're willing to hold out hope that another war in the Middle East isn't just the latest foregone conclusion.