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War Looms for Obama in Iran, Syria, and North Korea

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
April 12, 2012
Daily Beast


President Obama is being pushed and pulled into three conflicts–Iran, Syria, and North Korea–where the respective endgames could be either just more inconclusive blather or actual military confrontation. Events are being driven mainly by three bad guys. Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, intolerably, is trying to keep open the option to build nuclear weapons. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, intolerably, is killing rebels to keep power. North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, unacceptably, is trying to have his nuclear cake and eat American food too. Slowly but inexorably, all three situations are becoming testier and riskier with little sign of being saved by warnings or compromise.

On the one hand, Americans can't stand to deal with, let alone compromise with, bad guys like these three. None of these tyrants hesitate to spill the blood of their own people. It's against the American character to look away from humanitarian tragedies. Americans always feel they have to do "something."

On the other hand, polls show that American majorities oppose more wars. Sure, majorities also don't want to see their country pushed around by the bad guys, and they want their president to be tough. But mainly they want to get their way without any real cost.

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