A Syrian Response to Obama's Final State of the Union
'Most people, including most Syrians, are quite willing to believe President Obama’s boast that the “United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period.” And they likely nodded in agreement when he said that “when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead—they call us.”
The trouble from a Syrian perspective is that calling on the U.S.—and President Obama—for help is exactly what the Syrian people have been doing for years, ever since the early months of their revolution back in 2011, when pro-democracy protesters were marching peacefully, demanding respect for their basic rights, and giving the world a reason to hope. As President Obama himself noted at a time: “we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, 'peaceful,' 'peaceful.'” Syria’s peaceful pro-democracy activists could never understand why President Obama chose to turn his back on them, allowing the regime to get away with mass murder, and for radical forces to emerge and hijack their revolution. In the meantime, when their oppressor called on his friends, Iran and Russia, for help, they came rushing in.
Trump wants us to fear the others in our midst, and all around us, Obama merely wants us to be indifferent to their suffering. The first calls us names, the other merely treats us as nobodies, as a people who cannot be motivated by a simple desire for freedom, but only by a desire to settle some centuries old vendettas.
This brings me to Obama’s willingness to refer to the current situation in the Middle East as “a transformation … rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.” This used to be how the right wing referred to the Middle East. It used to be a vocabulary that liberals like Obama spent their time decrying.
The conflicts in the Middle East have nothing to do with what happened a thousand years ago, a fact a person with President’s Obama’s academic background should know well. Some Middle Eastern leaders might use such rhetoric to inflame sentiments, but the reality is far simpler: on the one hand we have a greedy, corrupt, and authoritarian ruling elite fleecing its people, and using them as fodder for wars meant to expand their influence and enrich their coffers.
By showing indifference to mass slaughter and dismissing the idea of humanitarian intervention as tantamount to creating another Vietnam or Iraq, President Obama in his own way has helped diminish America in the eyes of the world, just as he allowed Syria to diminish and be torn apart.
Yet now we have to listen to the President waxing poetic about the meaning of leadership, saying that “Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.”
Understand how this translates to a Syrian: I never thought your cause was right, which is why I never rallied anyone behind it.
President Obama spoke of conflicts in the Middle East lasting a generation, but here is what he did not tell us: what kind of a region, what kind of a world, does he expect to see in a generation, as he leaves extremists, terrorists, mass murders and Russian and Iranian imperialists to shape unmolested our realities, and as he leaves pro-democracy forces with no one to help them?'