By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
People the world over are perplexed as they try to understand the manner in which President Obama has handled the Syrian civil war. They expect the leader of the free world, the president of the largest democratic superpower, to provide leadership.
America has always stood for something. That something was providing the world with a beacon, a shining example of what people who care about liberty and freedom can accomplish if they are permitted to exercise the universal human yearning for self-government, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom to conduct their lives as they please under a moral high code.
Somehow, that beacon’s glare has begun to fade. Freedom-lovers are worried. Patriots of all political persuasions are perturbed. They want to be led. They want the person at the helm of their country to effectively voice their concerns and lead them and the world to a better place. They want to dream and hope for better days and they want their leader to help take them there.
They want a trusted and effective communicator who embodies the nobility of their ambitions.
In 2008, the American people elected Barack Obama, who ran on a platform of hope and change. He said that America had lost respect in the world and that he would restore it. He said that George W. Bush had misled the country into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would right those wrongs. He would face down Russia and Iran and accomplish, with the power of his personality and diplomacy, what Bush had failed to achieve with war. He would be non-partisan. He would be a president for all the people.
They believed him then. They didn’t any longer. They didn’t want to believe that he misled them and that it was all a lie. They didn’t want to accept that their president was struggling to fill a position that may be too large and daunting for him. And they were upset. They didn’t know what to make of his zigzagging and his failed promises. The economy was sagging, unemployment was a serious problem, and high gas prices and rising taxes had become the norm. But the American people continued to have faith that their president would rebound, that they were wrong and he was right, that somehow it would all turn out well.
And then Syria came along.
A despotic tyrant responded to simmering opposition brought on by the so-called Arab Spring by killing his own people. And when that failed to quell the uprising, he killed more. And then some more. By now, he has killed over 110,000 people. Millions have become refugees in foreign countries, dependent on handouts for shelter, food and clothing.
Obama didn’t help them then, when the revolt started, and he didn’t help them now. He mouthed some strong words, but he failed to follow them up with action. With nowhere else to go, secular rebels reached out to militant Islamists and their pleas were answered. Now the Syrian opposition is riddled with America’s enemies. No matter who wins, America is likely to lose.
Though Obama didn’t help the rebels fighting for freedom and help turn the tide when he could have easily done so, he set a red line. He warned that if the Syrian tyrant would dare use chemical weapons, he would act. No doubt about it. Assad called his bluff. He used the very weapons Obama had warned him about and Obama turned the other way the first few times. But then the crimes against humanity became so blatant and egregious that even the president of peace could no longer hide. He could no longer ignore the murder of tens of thousands of innocents.
The president promised to act. He said he would bomb Syria. He would teach Assad and anyone who had thoughts of using chemical weapons against innocent people a lesson. He assembled his team and he addressed the nation. He formulated a plan and Secretary of State Kerry sold it. And then, out of nowhere, he backed down. He flinched. He punted. He stalled. He sent it to Congress. He said it would be a shot across the bow, not regime change. Nothing that would make a real difference.
Then he grabbed a lifeline thrown by Secretary Kerry and said that if Syria would voluntarily give up their weapons, that would end it. Russian President Vladimir Putin jumped in to seal the deal. The man who no one anywhere trusts said he would guarantee it. And before anyone knew what happened, Obama lunged for the promise, bought it, and, shockingly, attempted to sell it. Putin, the man who rose up through the KGB, mockingly lectures America about democracy, as he sets the agenda on the world stage, especially when it comes to Syria.
Americans are left scratching their heads, trying to figure out what Obama’s foreign policy is, what he cares about, what his goals are, and how he attempts to accomplish them. They fear for the future of the country and the world. They are praying that they are wrong. They pray that there is an effective strategic plan.
We daven for Hashem to have rachmanus on acheinu Bnei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel who are in sakanah. We daven that the long, bitter golus will come to a quick end. We pray that the day of hoshivah shofteinu kevorishonah will arrive bemeheirah beyomeinu. Amein.