(Washington, D.C.) — UPDATED: Last night, Lynn and our sons celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. We ate apples dipped in honey. We watched a YouTube video of someone in Israel blowing the shofar. And we prayed.
As we did, I found myself wondering, What kind of year is ahead for Israel? For the people of Syria? For the people of Iran and Egypt and Lebanon and Jordan and all those in the Middle East? There is so much pain and uncertainty in the epicenter right now. More than 110,000 people have been killed in Syria during their civil war, some, reportedly, because of chemical weapons. More than two million Syrians have fled their country as refugees from the violence. An estimated five million Syrians have been “internally displaced” — they have fled away from their towns and villages to be safe from the violence, but they haven’t fled outside the borders of their country. Yet.
When I see such suffering, my heart grieves. I want to help. But is there a way, really, to make a difference?
As an evangelical Christian, and the president of The Joshua Fund, there is something my team and I — with your help — can do. We can pray fervently and faithfully for peace in Syria, for God’s mercy on that embattled country, for courage and boldness for the Christians there to be light in the darkness, for the spread of the Gospel, for many to come to Christ, for the Church to be the agent of hope and forgiveness and reconciliation. We can send our team into the region to encourage our Arab Christian friends and allies in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. We can fund projects to care for those who are suffering. We can fund projects to get the Gospel to as many people in Syria as possible. We can teach Christians about the history and future of Syria and Damascus. We can also stand with Israel, bless her people — Jews and Arabs — and prepare for another possible war. And we can pray for and encourage other Christian ministries and organizations who are like-minded. In short, we can do what the Bible tells us to do, regardless what the politicians and military leaders do. So this is what my colleagues have been doing, and this is what we will continue to do.
As an American citizen, I’m finding it actually much more difficult to determine what to do. As I’ve written recently, on principle I want the U.S. to take action. I don’t want to see cruel tyrants use weapons of mass destruction with impunity. There must be justice. Assad and regime should be punished.
But here is the thing: We are witnessing the clash between two terrible evils in Syria right now — Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime is in a winner-take-all fight to the death with the bloodthirsty, demonic forces of al Qaeda and other Radical Islamic groups.
In this nightmare environment, can the U.S. military make a meaningful difference? I’ve been wrestling about this for several days, and here is where I have come out.
I cannot in good conscience support the Congressional resolution to authorize this particular President with the power to use U.S. military force in Syria for 60 days, much less 90 days.
1.) The United States does not currently have a President who is trustworthy, principled, steady and wise — to the contrary, Mr. Obama is weak, vacillating, dithering, and devoid of a clear, compelling and principled policy in the Middle East. He doesn’t inspire confidence, not with our allies, not with Congress, and most importantly, not with the American people. It is clear that he drew his “red line” without thinking it through. He doesn’t have a plan. He hasn’t built Congressional or international support. He is winging it. And that is incredibly dangerous.
2.) Nobody is with us — President Obama has been unable to build even the limited international coalition for action that President George W. Bush built going into Iraq in 2003.
3.) The unintended consequences of becoming engaged in the war in Syria with an undependable President could be catastrophic, and this could draw our government, and thus us, in even deeper, with no exit strategy — What if a U.S. military strike in Syria leads to the fall of Assad and to al Qaeda or other Radical Islamic groups coming to power? What if Syria’s chemical and biological weapons fall into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists? What if those terrorists use those weapons against the American people and/or our allies? What if the Radical jihadist rebels start massacring the Christians of Syria? What if Assad, in a desperate last gasp of vengeance, unleashes a chemical weapons attack against Israel? These are just a handful of the nightmare scenarios.
Under a different President — one who was trusted and respected deeply by the American people, and our allies; one with foreign policy experience; one with solid principles and a steady hand — I could support this resolution because I would believe that the President would be ready to handle any unintended consequence. As it stands, I agree with most of the language in the resolution. But I do not have any confidence that President Obama is up to this enormous challenge. And since the downstream effects of what could be unleashed by a mishandling of this crisis are so horrible, I would not be able to vote in favor of the resolution if I were a member of the House or Senate.
It is a dangerous thing to have an American President that the nation does not trust to lead us into battle, or that we can depend upon in times of crisis. But that is where we are.
All the more, I am praying for the sovereign Lord to have mercy on us, our allies, and on the people of Syria and the people of the epicenter. I’m also praying for the President, his national security team, and Congress, as well as for the leaders of Israel — for the wisdom and courage to do the right thing. But my hope is not in the White House. My hope is in Christ.
HEADLINES WORTH TRACKING:
- On MSNBC, Former Dem. Senator Blasts Obama’s ‘Dithering,’ ‘Creating Uncertainty’ on Syria
- Time: The Cost of Obama’s Syria Dithering
- Bill Clinton slams Obama for dithering on Syria
- Washington Post columnist: A ‘dangerous’ Putin sees weakness in Obama
- BusinessWeek: Obama’s Decision Stirs Doubts About America’s Resolve
- The Economist: Dithering over Syria
- NBC News: Rumsfeld slams Obama on Syria, calls him weakest president in his lifetime
- Congressional resolution draft allows for boots on the ground in Syria — riddled with loopholes
- Revealed: Pentagon knew in 2012 that it would take 75,000 GROUND TROOPS to secure Syria’s chemical weapons facilities
- Al-Qaeda Linked Syrian Rebels Attack Christian Village
- New York Times: Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West
- Slate: April 28, 1999: The Last Time Congress Denied a President’s War Demands