Opposing Views: Did Obama’s Syrian Address Appeal to the Public?

Isabella Lilley and Sam Goggin

On Sept. 10, President Obama made an address to the American people about the proposed involvement in Syria’s alleged chemical weapons attack on the rebels. Below are two contrasting viewpoints on the affectiveness of that speech.

Below, Isabella Lilley expresses her appreciation for Obama’s speech and her agreement with his proposal to take action.

The current crisis facing our nation in deciding the position we hold with Syria has heads not just butting against one another, but pushing. In the presidential address presented by President Obama on Aug. 10 on Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the president lays it down and dishes it out; our intervention is the only solution.

Obama began his speech by explicitly stating that the regime under Bashar al-Assad admitted to using chemical weapons on their people. It is no longer a questionable event. On Aug. 21, the Syrian government gassed over 1,000 people to death in addition to the 100,000 deaths from the civil war caused by the protests from the people against the oppressive Assad regime. He continues with explaining that on the days leading up to the attack, Assad’s chemical personnel prepared for the attack by mixing the gas and distributing gas masks to their own troops.

Apparently unable to handle disagreement from their own people, 11 neighborhoods were targeted with the intention of wiping out every civilian in that area, and the same attackers continued targeting those same neighborhoods in the days following. As Obama put it, chemical weapons don’t discriminate between adult and infant.

Obama clearly understands why Americans don’t want involvement, but just as quickly retorts why we have to. So, why should we become involved? We’ve fought enough wars and Syria could deal with itself. We won’t be affected by their decision? Oh wait, that’s right! Syria’s use of chemical weapons is a violation of the laws of war–a violation of international law. Our country, and 98 percent of all humanity, has banned the use of chemical weapons. Obama said, “ [It] is not only a violation of international law, but it’s also a danger to our security.”Failure to act is the equivalent of condoning their behavior. If the most powerful nation in the world turns its back, the regime and other tyrants will see no reason to stop their use of the weapons–ultimately affecting all other nations on this planet with the possibility of chemical warfare.

In the speech, the president stated that a targeted military strike would be executed to deter Assad’s power and use of the weapons. Americans are angry. Any type of military intervention after being involved with foreign wars for the past decade seems preposterous. However, the president said that not a single American boot will set foot in Syria. In addition, he asked Congress to postpone a vote on military force in order to pursue a diplomatic, peaceful solution.

Obama brought the question of whether or not this action is worth it if it doesn’t completely take out Assad. The same Americans who take such pride in their country doubt the strength we are. Obama said, “Let me make something clear. The United States Military doesn’t do pin pricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”

Obama reminds us of who we are as a nation, and who we have always been. We’re the top dogs, and“…for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has not meant forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them.” So what if they threaten us? Don’t be so naïve. We’re threatened on the daily, and by much more powerful regimes. Due to their use of chemical weapons, their place on the food chain is already at stake. Do you really think they’d fight against the top dog, risking an even greater decrease in their own demise?

We must keep in mind that human beings are human beings no matter what area they inhabit. What kind of world will we be if we see “…those images of children riving in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor.” Obama made it clear that we are not the world’s policemen, and cannot stitch up every rip in the fabric of the world. But as the world’s leader, we hold the obligation to act, and should proudly display it. Compiling the speech into one statement, Obama says, “The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.”


Sam Goggin had a different viewpoint of Obama’s address to the American people. Not only does he disagree with the US taking action, but below he explains his dislike for Obama’s speech as a whole.

There is no denying that President Obama has a knack for speaking. It’s arguably the reason he has been elected twice. Not to say that his policies aren’t credible and well supported, but without substance, a speech can only go so far.

The speech delivered on Tuesday in the wake of the proposal by Russia for Syria to relinquish all chemical weapons to the United Nations. Obama and whoever else assists with his speech making had roughly a day to rewrite a speech that would be delivered to the entirety of the American people. I am not saying he is not without reason to have given speech that was inadequate, but inadequate it was.

While I am not here to lecture on international politics, one thing is obvious: peace is better than violence. It is difficult to convince large masses of people to proceed with violent actions when a peaceful solution by a third party is available. Say what you will about Putin, but that man is a political genius.

If lack of preparation was the only fault of his speech, I would give Obama a pass. You can’t predict everything that is going to happen. However certain things in the speech were inexcusable. Like a typical politician, he loves dancing around a subject. He says we are not the world’s police officers, yet a minute later states that when rules are broken someone has to enforce them. This sounds more or less exactly like what a police officer does.

Is it just me or do Obama’s speeches get progressively more insulting to one’s intelligence? I understand the raw simplicity of hope and determination and why simple words conveyed the correct way can inspire a people. Still I can’t help feel that when addressing the public on complicated world affairs, I can’t help but to feel offended when he speaks to me as if I don’t understand who the parties involved are. I think it is within all of America’s capacity to understand that not all of the resistance is radical Muslim extremists.

On the whole, to criticize a speech by Obama is a practice in futility. The man has an uncanny diction and speaking voice. The problem is he has set a standard so high that the slightest lack of preparedness or logical fallacy ends up being hyper analyzed by myself and others. At the end of the day, we will always be caught up at least for a few seconds in the hope and straight forwardness of any address given by Obama.