It was after midnight when the Advisor answered his red line phone and heard the codeword indicating the President was on his way. Minutes later, the President opened the steel door off the tunnel between the White House and the Treasury. As soon as he stepped in, he said, “I need a cup of your special coffee and a cigarette.”
“It’s poured and waiting for you. It’s late and you must be tired. Do you want to sit at the table or in my little conversation nook?”
“Lead me to the softest chair. I am beat. This Syrian thing has gotten out of control. All my advisors have spoken with their usual, on the one hand or the other comments they think are helpful advice. I decided to come and see you. I seldom like what you tell me but you make me think and clear up the fog of political chatter.”
“Thank you, Mr. President. You by now know that I like to start from the beginning. The Syrian problem was out of control during your first term with people from your Cabinet and key Progressive congressional figures rushing out to Syria and coming back with stories like the message Secretary Clinton brought back about President Assad being a reformer your administration could work with. As you understand, Mrs. Clinton is out of her element in the demanding nature of international diplomacy. She represented you and left you with a mess. A mess that now has little chance of turning out well for the nation and your presidency.”
“I understand and agree with you, but the decision I have to make is simply whether I should authorize a limited strike against Assad and under what conditions.”
“With all respect, Mr. President that is not the decision confronting you. It is much deeper and more complicated. The time when limited support to the opposition would have made a difference was at least two years ago. That window is now closed. Don’t think Syria. Think Iran and Russia. Syria is a weak arm of Iranian power in the Middle East. Syria’s role for Iran is primarily as a conduit for supplies to Hezbollah. Without that safe passageway for Iranian aid to Hezbollah, the ability of Hezbollah to control Lebanon and threaten Israel would vanish. On the Russian side, their primary interest is in securing a warm water port for their fleet. Ostensibly they now have one in Syria that is even now supporting a Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean. For that reason Russia will not allow you to get UN support for any military action in Syria.”
“The Russians must know I’m not going to invade Syria. I’m only planning on a limited strike.”
“Again with respect, Mr. President, there is no such thing as a limited strike. You can order a limited strike, but your opponents, understanding the lack of enthusiasm for another war in the Arab world resulting in a flood of body bags and an outflow of our treasure, can respond in a way to expand the conflict. Then you will feel a response is necessary. For example, if one or two of our ships are attacked and sunk, you will have to respond in self-defense. This will not be a Ben Ghazi where you can do nothing. Your choices are limited. You can do nothing. You can do a limited cruise missile strike and hope for the best or you can destroy Assad’s air power and punish Syria for using chemical weapons and give the rebels a much better chance to overthrow Assad. Whatever you decide, the power position of the United States in the Middle East has been seriously eroded.
“There is one other option. Take the problem to the Congress and blame them for whatever happens. They can be made to be at fault, no matter what they decide to do. This is an Alinsky-ite dream. The issue is never the issue. Use all issues to destroy the obstacles preventing you from seizing total power. Your former Secretary of State who wants to replace you will be pleased. Your decision can damage your influence in the Progressive Party. If Secretary Kerry had any thoughts of seceding you as President, you have destroyed that possibility for him. He took the bait and now looks like the man who turned on his country in the Vietnam War.”
“It amazes me that you can sit down here in a modern cave and have so many insights. You even understand my anti-colonial bias. I do not like to use American military power to restore western power in the Middle East. I can’t bring myself to attack Syria with only the French, with their legacy of subjugating Syria in the Colonial period, as an ally. What would you do in my place?”
“That is too hypothetical even for me. When in doubt, doing nothing is often the best choice. Remember the sarin gas killed approximately a thousand people in a terrible agony that was captured by the cameras. Assad’s forces killed a hundred times that many prior to the chemical attack. My last comment is where did Assad get that quantity of chemical weapons? He certainly didn’t produce them in Syria. Do you think a large part of them came from Iraq? The country that had no weapons of mass destruction even though they used chemical weapons against the Kurds and Shias. Mr. President, my best advice is to surround yourself with people who live in the real world, not in some virtual world they can control with propaganda and an endless mantra of untruths chanted in unison to the American people.”
By the author of the Jack Brandon novels. The author has 27 years of Government service,
including two years serving President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s as an advisor. Considering today’s volatile political situation, you are encouraged to share this on Facebook and to click the “like” button below. Comments and dialogue are welcome and helpful. Find and connect with the author on Goodreads.
- Russia, Syria, and a warm water port: https://factsandfictions.com/2013/06/10/eight-decades-of-insights-55/
- Mr. President!!! the Gop Is Offering You the Perfect Out on Syria. Take It!!! (xbjllb.typepad.com)
- Hezbollah declares state of high alert (aworldchaos.wordpress.com)