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A Letter to Obama

Immo Alea Iacta Non Est

by RAOUF J. HALABY

Dear Mr. Obama:

Little did you know, Mr. President, that, when you announced, several months past, that, should Syria cross a red line, these words would come to haunt you.  You have, Sir, painted yourself in a corner and boxed yourself so tightly that, to use Macbeth’s words: “For mine own good/All causes shall give way/ I am … stepped in so far that, should I wade no more/ Returning were as tedious as go over.”

As you know, Mr. President, the Latin term rubico  means red. If, indeed, the evidence is reliable, then Assad has crossed an international Rubicon, that red line in the sand which you drew for him. Frankly, Mr. President, the  advisors with whom you have surrounded yourself have not served you well. That even before the U.N. investigative team – a team invited by the Syrian government  —  had arrived in Damascus for its investigation you made a hasty decision to attack undermined your credibility. Or, was this a contrived excuse and an opportune time for you to put the final nails in the Assad regime’s coffin and effect the regime change you and your predecessor have called for? In short, you exercised an  alea iacta est  (the die has been cast) dictum.

In need of a fig leaf, you deferred to Congress in the hopes of getting the necessary votes for a strike on Syria. Furthermore, you and your team initiated a full court press at home and abroad with very limited success. The Brits turned you down soundly, the Germans are lukewarm, the French are going to give you token support, the Israelis want you to fight yet another war on their behalf (as George Bush did in Iraq), and the greedy Saudi sheikhs  have offered to underwrite the 1 billion dollar expense for the limited strike, or, is itstrikes? They know full well that any military action is a win win situation for them for it will spike the price of oil thus sticking it to the American middle class and enriching them. They did it in 1973, and with the cooperation of the domestic oil magnates, they’ve been doing it since. And won’t these strikes damage any chance of an economic recovery at home? The citizens of this country have spoken loudly and clearly; they are war weary, and they do not wish to be involved in yet another adventure in the Middle East.  If you go through with theselimited targeted strikes, history will not treat you kindly.

I would like to submit to you, Mr. President, that while Macbeth’s statement “Returning [is] as tedious as go over” holds a certain measure of pragmatic veracity,  in this particular circumstance in which you and your advisors have boxed your administration,  “returning” instead of going “over”  is an infinitely better choice.

While deferring the matter to Congress has given you a fig leaf, albeit a flimsy one, it is, at very best, a very minute leaf.  And while it is laudable that some conservative Republicans will vote against granting you authorization to go to war, to cast a negative vote solely because these votes are intended to embarrass and undermine you and your administration is unconscionable.  And, while John McCain’s service to his country is laudable and duly noted, Mr. President, please do not let him and Lindsey Graham Lady-Macbeth you. Did not the Vietnam War end in 1973?

You would do well to consider the Russian proposal to remove the chemical weapons from Syria. Very rarely are world leaders handed the opportunity to walk away from bad decisions and war in a graceful manner.  While Greek tragedians did not grant their tragic heroes the opportunity to change course because their destiny was controlled by forces beyond their power, Shakespeare accorded his tragic heroes the opportunity to chart their course and determine their destiny.  Whether it was excessive pride, political ambition, arrogance, revenge, or jealousy,  Shakespeare’s tragic heroes made decisions that affected their lives and the lives of others. The Russian proposal gives you the perfect political fig leaf and the opportunity to: listen to the voices of the American people who have spoken loudly and clearly and to act accordingly; it will reduce tensions at home and abroad;  it will provide for a smoother transition in Syria, hopefully one unlike Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Iraq;  it will assure that Islamists don’t overrun a secular country ; it will get your Secretary of State back on track with the Israel/Palestine negotiations, at best a very long shot; it will put the war mongers on a shorter leash; it will let the Saudis and Israelis know that they cannot always buy and influence American foreign policy; it will prove to the world that negotiations instead of war are a change in which they can believe; it will perhaps give you the opportunity to earn a fragment of the Peace Prize; and most significantly, no American men and women will have to go into harm’s way should there be any  fallout from the laws of unintended consequences.

No doubt you, your cabinet, and Congress will have to blow some bluster lest you appear weak and indecisive. Miss Hillary’s already lectured us on this matter. And the same is true for Syria’s tyrannical rulers; they’re likely to priss around like roosters bragging about how they made a super power back down.

Mr. President, I’d like to believe that immo alea iacta non est (no, the die has not been cast).

Wishing you the best as you forge ahead guided by wisdom, grace, compassion, and moral fortitude.

Sincerely and Salaam.

Raouf J. Halaby is a teacher, a gardener, a sculptor and a peace activist. He can be reached at: halabyr@obu.edu.