There is a bizarre quality to the U.S. public debate about bombing Syria. Much time and effort has been spent analyzing President Barack Obama’s decision to finally call for a vote in Congress: whether this was a wise choice; what the repercussions of an attack may be; the (il)legality of acting without a United Nations Security Council mandate; the moral case for bombing, and the strategic case for restraint.
But almost no attention has been paid to a fundamental question: Have all other options been exhausted?
Obama has presented the American public with a false binary choice: taking military action or doing nothing.
It is perhaps the sign of our times that diplomacy is not even being talked about as an option, though Obama’s 2008 platform included restoring diplomacy as a central tool of American statecraft.
If the key concern is humanitarian — putting an end to the senseless slaughter of Syrian civilians — rather than U.S. credibility — ensuring the enforcement of the president’s “red line” — much more should have been done earlier to press all sides of the conflict to agree to a cease-fire.