Syria: A ‘Red Line’ Obama Shouldn’t Cross

Why his legacy will hinge on battles closer to home and would be hurt by another military morass.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

(The Root) — If Barack Obama is truly concerned with how history will judge his presidency, he will resist the intensifying pressure to intervene militarily in Syria’s horrendous civil war. Instead, he should complete the planned withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Afghanistan and refocus our national energy on reinvigorating the still-shaky domestic economy during the remainder of his second term.

This is not a call for the U.S. to retreat into isolationism and disengage from global issues. It is a plea for us to reorder our priorities in light of our true national interest.

Despite recent signs that the economy is reviving, this is still a battered nation where far too many people continue to pay the price for the misplaced policies of the recent past. The victims include African Americans, whose unemployment rate of 13.2 percent is nearly double the 6.7 percent jobless rate among whites.

Although our humanitarian instincts say otherwise, we simply cannot afford another expensive military engagement in yet another Middle Eastern potential quagmire. We are not in a position to heal the woes of other nations until we repair our own.

Politicians and pundits may quibble about the implications of Obama’s warning that the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad would cross a “red line” if it used chemical weapons against its civilian population. They may hope that Russia will finally use its influence to help negotiate an end to the horrific violence, which has cost 70,000 lives so far.

The U.S. is already trying to pull the opposition together into a credible alternative to the Assad regime and providing millions of dollars in nonlethal assistance. What else we could do to make things better is debatable.