As Aeschylus, the Greek dramatist said, "In war, truth is the first casualty." But in today's political climate, just the threat of war sends truth fleeing, exacerbated by the lack of trust in our leaders and governing institutions.
How can you tell when a politician is lying? Answer: When he moves his lips.
In Washington, even moreso than ususal, politicians are moving their lips at breakneck speed. Syria seems to be the talk of the town and indeed the world right now and I am confused as to why. Neither the president nor anyone else has yet to tell me why I and the American people should care about Syria. What is our national security interest in Syria beside the possible humanitarian angle?
I have my master's degree from George Mason University in international business and have travelled the globe. I have been in the midst of some serious foreign policy issues in other countries and find it amazing that rarely does a country take the time to explain to its people the underlying rationale for a particular foreign policy initiative.
There is a plausible explanation behind this; in the U.S. Americans tend to be the least informed of most major nations when it comes to foreign affairs. So, when you combine a lack of awareness with mistrust of a country's leaders, that's a recipe for a misplaced foreign policy. As one foreign policy expert told me, "the masses or a—-. They will believe whatever we tell them."
The only thing that is certain about Syria is that someone released a chemical agent that killed hundreds of people. That is the only thing that has been established as a fact.
There has been no proof offered to the public that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical release. How do we know that it was not a terrorist attack or that it was not the rebels who did it to sway public opinion? Could our own CIA have done it to give Obama cover for going into Syria? In the immortal words of Ronald Reagan, "trust, but verify."
In today's political climate (post-Iraq and Afghanistan), it is not enough for members of Congress to be given classified briefings in validating the case against Assad. The public must have the evidence put on the table for our own consideration. We can no longer just take the word of our elected officials.
So, let's assume that there is convincing evidence that Assad is responsible for the release of these chemical agents. Why should this be of any concern to the American people and how does this affect our national security?
Obama has stated that it is a moral imperative to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. But what is the definition of this moral imperative? Why is it not a moral imperative to go into Darfur (Sudan), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), or Nigeria? They have all been ravished with the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians by governments and terrorists. Are Middle Eastern lives more valuable to America than African lives?
I am not necessarily opposed to engagement in Syria, but I would like to know why it is in the United States' national interest to do so. If we do nothing, like in Africa, what are the consequences relative to the U.S.?
Emotion is not a foreign policy.
To continue to ask the American people to trust our elected officials without giving us the benefit of seeing the evidence for engagement in Syria is indeed a foreign policy.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.