Column explaining Obama’s decision on Syria

Ross Douthat wrote a good column
in today’s paper explaining why Obama wants to do what he’s doing
in Syria. I don’t agree with the reasoning, but I think it’s a
better explanation of it than I’ve heard from anyone else,
including Obama himself.

You should read the whole column, but here are some excerpts:

…Of course there’s something arbitrary about telling a dictator he
can kill his subjects with bullets but not gas. But there’s
something arbitrary about any constraint we impose on lesser
powers. The point is to sustain an environment of constraint,
period — in which troublemakers are constantly aware they can only push so far before American military power pushes back.

Look: I know Thomas Aquinas wouldn’t endorse a war for American
credibility, and I know the Barack Obama of 2007 probably
wouldn’t either. But most of my post-cold-war predecessors
would, and did. And they’ve bequeathed me a world that — no matter what the headlines suggest — is more at peace than at any point in human history.

When I was trying to decide who to vote for in the
Massachusetts democratic primary in 2008, I ignored the argument a
lot of my friends were making that Hilary Clinton had voted for
the war in Iraq and Barack Obama hadn’t. I said that Obama had said he
wouldn’t have, but he wasn’t in the senate then, and wasn’t
subject to the pressures that the actual senators were, so we
didn’t really know whether he would have voted for the war.

I think this decision, and several others Obama has made since
becoming president, justify my reasoning. Having a job like
President changes you, so you have to decide who should get that
job based on how well you think the person will deal with those
pressures, and not on what the person says about what he’ll

For the record, I did actually vote for Obama over Clinton. I
felt sorry not to vote for Clinton, who has more in common with me
than any other candidate in my lifetime, but the endorsements by
senators who had presumably worked with both of them swayed me.
Also the position papers on some of the tech-related issues I care
about suggested that Obama had more people in his circle who also
cared about such things. I’ve been somewhat disappointed in his
record on those issues, though, so I was probably doing what my
friends in the peace movement did on peace.

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