The Magazine

‘Barbarians Are Barbaric’

Sep 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 01 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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And, we might ask, does President Obama hear it? Shavit’s (metaphorical) use of “Huns” couldn’t help but remind us of Obama’s speech earlier this summer in Berlin. There the president said that “we are not only citizens of America or Germany—we are also citizens of the world. And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before.” Obama nowhere in that speech mentioned Syria, where 75,000 citizens of the world had by then died in a war about which Obama had talked much but done nothing. Indeed, one might conclude from Obama’s inaction that those who do nothing but talk about how they are citizens of the world tend to lack the courage to come to the aid of their fellow citizens of the world.

But perhaps that is too harsh. Perhaps Obama will, belatedly, hearken to the pleas of Ari Shavit. Perhaps he will break free of “moral relativism, multicultural hypocrisy and political correctness.” Perhaps he will realize not just that he has to act, but that he has to act decisively.

It may be that the president believes he ought to get congressional approval before acting against Assad. There is merit to this view. The solution is to ask Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Harry Reid to call the House and Senate back to Washington as soon as possible. A full debate in Congress would be appropriate and desirable. It would focus the American people on what is at stake, instead of leaving the public a bystander watching media commentary on the administration’s rhetorical zigs and political zags. We suspect at the end of the day Congress would pass legislation authorizing the use of military force against the Assad regime. And if Congress refused, at least we would have had the considered judgment of the duly elected representatives of the American people.

The worst outcome would be for Obama not to call Congress back, or not to act at all, but to falter and retreat. For his retreat would be America’s retreat, and his humiliation America’s humiliation.

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