Obama Told Us We’d Bomb Syria Back in 2009

Both Democrats and Republicans will occasionally attack President Barack Obama for abandoning his foreign policy principles. He used to be a peacenik, they say, a pure dove. Now he’s bombing countries with wanton abandon. What changed, they wonder — some with glee, some with horror.

The debate of where and how Obama lost his way (or saw the light, depending on your point of view) is endless, and full of potential villains and heroes. Did Obama get co-opted by the Military-Industrial Complex? Did he realize once he was president that Bush was right about everything after all? Was he just lying to us before?

It’s all very fun, but it misses the fundamental truth. You see, Barack Obama hasn’t abandoned his principles; indeed, Obama’s foreign policy has been very consistent with the vision he laid out in 2009 in Oslo, in the lecture he gave upon receiving that year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and before that, in his consistent support of the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, Obama is now what he always has been — a pragmatic, cautious interventionist.

Don’t get me wrong — Obama is no neocon. However, his address in Oslo explains precisely why the president who ended the war Iraq is also the president who attacked Libya to protect rebels.

Obama acknowledged in his lecture that his position as Commander in Chief of U.S. Armed Forces made him an unlikely choice for the Nobel Peace Prize, especially as the United States, at that time, was involved in two wars.

Still, we are at war, and I’m responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

Obama went on to discuss the long history of war, from the creation of “Just War” theory to the establishment of the League of Nations, and later the United Nations. He noted that access to weapons of mass destruction made small organizations and individuals capable of destruction on a massive scale, and that civil wars, as opposed to large multinational conflicts, seemed to be more common. He also made a statement that, while depressing, is almost certainly correct.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there’s nothing weak – nothing passive – nothing naοve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But while Obama acknowledged the moral force of pacifism, he also stated that sometimes, war is necessary.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Obama then laid out what he saw as the practical steps nations must take to minimize conflict, fight ethically and focus their military engagements only on morally just endeavors. Obama started by calling for nations to adhere to common rules of engagement and standards for the use of force. And then, he told us that one day, we might well have to attack a nation like Syria.

More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That’s why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

This is a flat justification for intervening in Syria. The Syrian government is slaughtering its own civilians, and the ongoing civil war there has created violence and suffering that is affecting the Middle East.

Obama did not stop there, though. He also called for nations to adhere to the laws of war, which include bans on torture and chemical weapons. And while he said that peaceful resolutions should be sought to violations of those laws, he made clear that if diplomacy failed, military action would be not only acceptable, but morally just.

The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma – there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy – but there must be consequences when those things fail. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This is a clear, concise and consistent argument, and it is the framework for Obama’s approach in Syria. America did not intervene in Syria the second civil war broke out; America has not moved to attack even now, as the President awaits Congressional input into a possible attack. However, Obama has made clear that the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government violates international law, and that because of that, he supports an attack.

You don’t have to agree with President Obama, of course. Indeed, even if you agree with Obama’s premise, you can disagree in the use of force in this case for dozens of good, pragmatic reasons. There really is no good answer in Syria, and any action the U.S. takes, from ignoring Assad’s attacks to full-scale war, carries with it a host of potentially disastrous pitfalls.

While you don’t have to agree with Obama, you should at least acknowledge that he hasn’t changed his positions on the use of force. The President laid out his foreign policy vision clearly and completely. If you listened to his address in 2009, his support for intervention in Syria cannot be a surprise.

Take action and sign this petition to send your representatives and senators to urge U.S. not to take military action in Syria.

Photo Credit: The White House


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

Cont ...

This grew long … but for me the “never again” of post WWII extends to everything and all living beings on this planet irrespective of individual “traits”.

A last remark: what really got me upset is that CARE2 didn’t see it fit to publish something about Gush Shalom’s founder Uri Avnery who turned 90 on September 10 (http://zope.gush-shalom.org/index_en.html)! Such an outstanding person and the biggest part of his life dedicated to one thing only: peace.


“There are none so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free." Didn’t Goethe say this?

Have a good day, Margret, and sorry that it got so long.

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

Cont ...
Friends calling us urging that we leave this country were people get killed by the thousands ... Christians being herded together like cattle and killed ... and what have you.

Asking if they don't see the cordons the Muslims together with their Christian brothers made around churches and Christian shops they thought I have to say this because the telephones are bugged!!! They didn't believe that the normal Muslims and normal Christians are one and the fanatics are a different story; a foreign body in our society, and that they have therefore no place in it = the will of the people.

Look at Israel - I often rant against its government and policy (like I do with other governments) because I think it's wrong and we could have peace since many decades. Talk to normal Israelis and you find they know little to nothing of what's going on in the occupied territories or even inside Israel proper; the discrimination, the harassment by authorities, the neglect of Arab neighborhoods, etc. It's like they live in a cocoon but understood as they are forbidden from entering the OTs. Maybe you know "The Other Israel" (http://otherisrael.home.igc.org/) or Kibush, the occupation magazine (www.kibush.co.il) – be patient the link is often “broken” … It shows a total different everyday life picture.

This grew long … but for me the “never again” of post WWII extends to everything and all living beings on this planet irrespective of individual &

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

Dear Margret - there's not much more we can do but it is a lot IF we ALL stand up. I assume once we'd realize the power, we the people, actually yield if only we could accept that we share this planet no matter what and - more important - that we all have the very SAME rights and needs ... then the world could be a truly nice place for everyone. A little bit less of "I" and much more of "we" in our vocabulary could help ;-).

I know for a fact that no matter which creed, race or culture we come from or have - ultimately the people don't want war but pursue their lives the best they can. This is true for Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists and whoever else I left out. Instead of having the aggressive ones at the top decide our future we rather peaceful ones (at the base of the pyramid) should deal with each other and get rid of the top!

What we need to overcome is our apathy and concentration on only our little world although it's to us the most important. I believe that we have the duty to inform ourselves from the right to the left and think for ourselves again. We must stop accepting that "they" think for us and manipulate us in the process for their goals. Those of us who live in democracies feel they have free media - they have NOT (just as we don’t have either but we know it – LOL). Just look at the distortion which was going on in the Western media about Egypt and its "coup". Friends calling us urging that we leave this country were people get kil

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman5 years ago

Some people have asked where is the outrage of the American liberals at Obama's use of drones, his spying apparatus, his apparent desire to be militarily involved in Syria?

Well I, as an American liberal, am outraged. I've signed umpteen petitions, even those sent me by the Rand Paul people. I voted for Obama twice only because I believed that the alternative would be even worse.

I do not have Eleonora's command of resources and facts, but, like Ros G., I agree with her and support her. To me this whole Syria issue is the United States trying to maintain the petrodollar and to control fossil fuel pipelines and resources.

Deborah W.
Deborah W5 years ago

Grab the Nobel, give the appropriate speech of acceptance, and move on to the "evolution" we've seen from that point forward. PRIZE SHOULD BE RECALLED, an unworthy recipient.

Weak from the start, inept in managerial skills and constantly tapdancing based on public opinion and/or push from key unions, other major donators, and Democratic friends reaping benefits ... finally the "transparency" and pitiful graveling toward the heretofore ignored resistance in hopes of a way out while saving face.

Too little too late, HIS credibility is in ruins, and ours as well, purely by association, unless we the people stand tall, voice our displeasure, and stick with it. THE LOVE AFFAIR IS OVER, time to man-up.

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

Nice to see you up and about, Ros - "hamdellah a salama" we say in (Egyptian) Arabic if someone recovered from the bug ... or comes home safe - LOL!

Sometimes I'm really left speechless by such ignorant, callous and plain stupid statements like the one posted by our friend David; they make me chuckle which is good for my spirit!

What I don't know is ... should I be proud that he thinks I'm producing all these reports and evidence which are/is out there even for a blind man to see? "... to cover up all these government conspiracies’ YOU INVENT." (Emphasis added).

I just wish for him (or his children if he has any) that he/they will never have a baby in their families who is so "disformed" that one doesn't recognize it to be a human being!

Either he is lying and he didn't watch the videos or he is simply not to be counted in as a human being.

... on a second thought: he might be Elaine's husband! That would explain it all!

Have a good day and take it easy!

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

To David F. - I'm "bamboozled" too - all I can say is:

"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black"!!!

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

cont... from below and end:

Or the full documentary
Beyond Treason: The true story of depleted uranium

Sadly noted, that this documentary has just over 34’000 views … so far. Truth hurts but burying the head in the sand is not going to help - not the victims and not those who fight in order to stop this madness!

What does it take to overcome apathy and fear? Or have we lost all empathy? Have we truly become a "me first and the rest can bust!" society?!

Help me - I can’t remember ... “why do they hate us (America)”??

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani5 years ago

cont... from below

Then, gradually, they are absorbed into the blood and lymph, and cause various illnesses and damages to the whole body. Also, aside from inhalation, they get into the body and enter the bloodstream by oral ingestion and through wounds. This kind of very dangerous weapons are being diffused in large quantity all over Iraq by the US and British troops. Not only during the war, but also after the war, and an unimaginable length of time of 4.5 billion years hereafter, the people of Iraq will have to bear the burden of living in this vast polluted land and learn how to survive with this grim reality. The British and US troops, at the instance that they drop DU weapons, do not just snatch away precious lives but cause the Iraqis further and eternal miseries.”

Eye-catching here is the fact that Israel is not mentioned in the World depleted uranium inventory although it is known since 2006 that Israel not only has DU Amu but also doesn’t hesitate to use it on the civilians in Lebanon.

For those who rather like to watch:

The affects of DU in Iraq
Part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSCCsUV7PqQ
Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_971302&feature=iv&src_vid=hSCCsUV7PqQ&v=W9MNQDQXkzs