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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Barack Obama As Senator Vs. Barack Obama As President. Will The Real Obama Please Sit Down!


Brad Cummings | On Syria, Obama '13 haunted by Obama '02

There once was a politician who appeared to be the kind of change our country wanted. He drew stark contrasts to the current administration of his day using the Iraq War as his main foil. One of his many winning talking points even included being among the first to oppose what was a very popular war back in 2002.
“... I’m opposed to a dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” — Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama

Yet, there’s nothing more political or emotional a president could do than enter his country into war because of an artificially rendered “red line,” a line members of his team are now claiming wasn’t even meant to be drawn. It’s amazing, with these words above as a historical backdrop to President Obama’s ascension, that we are even considering a strike on another Middle Eastern country based largely on reasons of passion and politics.

In the same speech, then-state Sen. Barack Obama went on to paint Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a brutal man, acknowledging his possession of chemical weapons and brutalization of his own people. He defined Hussein as a dictator who defied U.N. resolutions and coveted nuclear capacity. And yet, this dictator was not worth going to war over.
“I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida.”

How is this war in Syria any different than the one Obama opposed in Iraq? Are we really so riddled with short-term memory loss that we don’t recall the escalation of two wars that were supposed to be quick, localized efforts? No one can say the Syrian conflict would be limited to airstrikes with any certainty, especially since Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has pledged to retaliate. If Syria were to strike a U.S. embassy or our allies in Israel, does anyone believe we would (or should) stand down and take it?

Most important, this proposed war would do far more to “strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida” than our war in Iraq. Much of the Syrian opposition is constructed of groups directly tied to the very terrorist organization that attacked our country 12 years ago today. It’s hard to imagine a greater benefit to those responsible for 9/11 than to clear the path for their takeover of an entire country, one that we already know possesses chemical weapons.

The Iraq War was the first full-fledged war of my adulthood. At 35 years old, many of my contemporaries, even those instinctively more hawkish like myself, have learned some great lessons over the last decade. More than anything, I’ve learned you can’t force a country to accept your worldview anymore than you can convert someone’s religion or force them to lose weight. Change comes from within, not without.

So do we make a similar mistake with Syria? What is an attack on this country for if not regime change and how do we guide regime change without at least implicitly imposing our way of life on a country lest we be stuck with the above scenario of al-Qaida rule? Possessing and using chemical weapons on the Iraqi people was not “clear rationale” for an attack but it is now in Syria. That makes about as much sense as a three-dollar bill.

With President Bush and a more principled President Obama, an attack was backed with the fear of knowing there’s “more where that’s coming from.” But now that our current president has made it clear he is willing to put every decision up for a vote and sway with the winds of the populace, we may now live in a world where enemies of the U.S. will not fear retaliation and instead count on capitulation. I don’t agree with going to war with Syria, but if President Obama stuck with his guns, the world would at least respect him in the morning.

As of this writing, Russia has now suggested a path forward to avoid a conflict by asking Syria to turn over their chemical weapons to the U.N. President Obama’s actions have made Vladimir Putin the voice of international reason. Honestly, this may be the most concerning revelation of all.

This is likely what happens when a president starts listening to those around him and not his core convictions. He’s no longer the man who lit a nation on fire with soaring rhetoric and inspired the world to the tune of a Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, he’s become a shell of his former inspirational self.
In his spare time, President Obama should take up reading some speeches delivered by a fresh-faced politician from early 2000s. He might still have a thing or two in common with that state senator from the Land of Lincoln.
Brad Cummings is COO of PM Advertising, and he previously served as Jefferson County Republican Party chairman. His column appears every third Wednesday. He can be reached at

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