By Larry Gordon
The president’s hesitation in teaching Syria a lesson about the use of chemical weaponry to gas civilians is an issue that is overblown. Yes, Mr. Obama did say more than just a few times that the use of such chemicals would be considered by him and the U.S. government as crossing a red line.
And therein lies the issue. Did anyone see a red line? The red line that was alleged to have been crossed by the Syrians was an imaginary one that could not be produced as evidence in any court of law, especially the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Did anyone see President Obama actually draw a red line on a piece of oak tag the way that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red line on a childish drawing of a bomb in front of the United Nations General Assembly last year? Does Barack Obama have such a drawing?
Even if Syria crossed some kind of line with that chemical gas assault that killed over 1,400 people, including 426 children, according to UN inspectors, who says that the line was really red? Maybe it was more of a yellow line, the color that on a traffic signal we kind of slide through when driving.
And there is the issue of whether Barack Obama is perhaps color-blind. I’m not talking about Trayvon Martin, who could have been his son if he had a son. This is not the time to comment on the President’s aloofness, absolute silence, or lack of concern for the white Australian athlete gunned down two weeks ago by black teenagers in Oklahoma who were bored and looking to have some fun by killing a random person. That’s an issue for another day and another essay.
I don’t know specifically that the president suffers from color blindness, but maybe he is waiting for Syria to cross that red line but has so far only been able to identify the line crossed as yellow or orange. And perhaps he needs Congress to help him recognize the color of the line that was crossed.
The real debate taking place is whether this Obama routine is more like an Abbott and Costello or a Three Stooges routine. And there is an abundance of material here for the premiere of Saturday Night Live. Either way, the world is having a good laugh at this country’s expense.
On the one hand, we look feckless and weak. On the other hand, being able to restrain oneself from letting go of an abundance of very expensive missiles might be in hindsight more effective than anything else we could do now. Each of these bombs is worth millions of dollars. Let’s face it; we just don’t have the cash on hand to throw (or shoot) money around like that just to make a point.
And then there is the matter that talk is cheap, which fits more into our austere budget planning. Why fire costly missiles onto probably empty buildings when you can stand before an international audience on news channels like CNN, Fox, and Al Jazeera and characterize Assad in the worst possible way? Secretary Kerry said that what Assad has done is genocide, that he’s a killer of children; another official compared him to Hitler; and so on. At this point, that seems to be much more effective than wasting all that money on an air show.
Our sages said, “Who is a strong man? One who conquers his evil inclination.” This can also be interpreted as one who is able to manage and control his reflexive or instinctive reaction to a situation. And in a praiseworthy way, what Mr. Obama has done here may ultimately be viewed as an example of this adage, but we really will not know for a while. He is right about a few things, despite generating the impression of indecisiveness and uncertainty.
Assad has overseen the killing of over 100,000 Syrians over the last two years. And some are asking, what is the difference how he kills them, and why has the international community and especially the UN been so still until now?
In Mr. Obama’s defense, it is difficult to call him a pacifist when you consider the extent to which he has ramped up the predator drone program to go after the Al Qaeda leadership and an array of terrorists in places like Afghanistan and Yemen. I don’t think that the president is afraid to pull the trigger; he just does not see the benefit in doing it right now, today, or this week. “Who is a wise man? He who can anticipate the consequences of his actions.”
So maybe the president came to the realization that in the Arab world, attacking them and killing them as well as defeating them does not impede their ability to declare victory. So the president has shrewdly shifted some of the onus for attacking Syria to Congress, which was going to criticize and denigrate the president regardless of his course of action.
Now, without rushing to fire on Syria, we have an opportunity to reflect and ponder the best course of action. Right now there is no real threat to the U.S., so why incur the further wrath of millions of madmen? And remember, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, from the start, the Obama strategy on Syria may be the first U.S. military operation designed to miss its target.
As Sarah Palin said when asked on Fox News last week what should be done or can be done about the civil war in Syria, “Let Allah try to sort it all out.”
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More Election Choices
In the New York City battle for comptroller, the polls today say that former governor Eliot Spitzer has a significant lead against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. That’s too bad. I cannot support Spitzer, just as I cannot support City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Spitzer achieved his fame and notoriety because he violated the law. Any other citizen would have been arrested and prosecuted for what Spitzer did. So what are voters going to do—reward him by restoring him to elected office?
Scott Stringer is a good and decent man who would be a credit to the city as comptroller. My friend Ezra Friedlander put me on the phone with Stringer last week, and we discussed the race and his approach to these last few days of the campaign.
Stringer said that he hopes to achieve a come-from-behind victory and has faith in voters and the idea that in the privacy of the voting booth they will cast their ballot for him instead of responding to the media frenzy and sensationalism that keeps Spitzer’s name in the news day after day.
We discussed the all-important New York City pension fund, which today totals over $140 billion. That is a large sum that has to be responsibly managed, and Stringer made a point of saying that he would stand clear of investing any of those funds with companies that participate in boycotting of the State of Israel. Stringer said that he has broad support in the city and very good endorsements from political leaders across the board.
And so it is important to elect Scott Stringer comptroller on September 10.
In an important Queens race, City Councilman Peter Vallone is facing off against former City Council member Melinda Katz for the position of Queens Borough President. Both candidates bring a lot to the table and have a history of serving the borough well. I met Vallone this summer and came away with the impression that he was the perfect person for the job.
On the City Council, Vallone became the point man representing the best interests of keeping our post-9/11 city safe by making certain that our police force had all the resources at its disposal to do its job well and keep New Yorkers safe. There is no greater issue facing the city, especially today.
His focus on security in the city features a special emphasis on keeping our shuls and yeshivas safe. He led the charge, along with Long Island congressman Peter King, to keep the trials of terrorists out of the courts in Lower Manhattan. Peter Vallone understands our community, he understands security, and he intimately knows the needs of Queens residents. That’s why it is important to vote for Peter Vallone in next Tuesday’s primary election.
State Senator Daniel Squadron is seeking election as the Democratic candidate for Public Advocate, the seat currently held by mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. Squadron, the son of former powerhouse attorney and former chairman of the Conference of Presidents, Howard Squadron, is the favorite in the race and he is our favorite too. He is facing a primary against Tish James and former deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani, among others.
Mr. Squadron brings intelligence and a sterling record as a state senator to the office that has the ability to represent the people of New York in a fair and equitable fashion. More than that, with the race for mayor somewhat up in the air at this point, Squadron will be a friend of the Jewish community inside City Hall. v
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