Going Solo in Syria Is Big Shift for Obama

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 31 2013 1:20 PM

Obama Could Be First in Decades To Attack Foreign Nation Without International Backing

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Hundreds of people protest against military intervention in Syria in central London on August 31

Photo by CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

It seems President Obama isn’t afraid of going at it alone. And that, in itself, marks a big shift for a man who, during his first presidential run, emphasized how the United States needed to build coalitions and alliances across the world. Now, Obama could very well become the first president in three decades to launch an attack on a foreign nation without first gathering broad international support or to directly defend Americans, points out the Associated Press. The last time the United States was this alone in pursuing a foreign strike was in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan launched the Grenada invasion.

Obama’s apparent willingness to launch an attack on Syria virtually alone “has left some members of his party and former administration officials disappointed,” points out the Wall Street Journal. The president has made it clear he’d rather have international support, but spoke recently of what appeared to be the “incapacity” of the United Nations to do something “in the face of a clear violation of international norms.”

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And while it seems that France is the only real ally the United States has on Syria, that doesn’t mean others haven’t been pushing for action behind the scenes. South Korean, Turkish, Israeli, and Saudi officials have been pushing Obama to respond to Syria’s apparent use of chemical weapons, according to the Journal. It’s not just about Syria, these allies argue. If Washington doesn’t act now it could have a detrimental effect on the U.S. credibility on Iran and other areas of the world. Instead, a strike, even if a symbolic one, would at least send a message that the United States won’t back down on its security commitments around the world.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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