Iraq War Veteran on Syria: 'We Stumbled Into a Solution'

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Audio Transcript:

Barack Obama: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo.

Marco Werman: President Obama speaking last night. Marc Fisher was listening. He's an Iraq war veteran. He also served in Kosovo. You may recall that Marc joined us last week and shared his opinions on Obama seeking Congressional approval for a military strike in Syria. We checked in with him again today to hear his thoughts after hearing the president’s speech last night.

Marc Fisher: The big thing that struck me about the speech was that it seems that we stumbled into a good solution. Whether that was on purpose or whether that was, I guess, a stumble, I think we’re in a better position now than we were last time we spoke.

Werman: So last week when we spoke with you, you expressed concern about America's role in the world. You were concerned about the US becoming the world's policemen, and last night during Obama's speech, he also talked about that. Let's have a listen.

Obama: As several people wrote to me, we should not be the world's policemen. I agree, and I have a deeply-held preference for peaceful solutions.

Werman: And then, Marc, a few minutes later Obama pivoted, and said this.

Obama: My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them.

Werman: So Marc Fisher, two different statements from the President, one about being peaceful and the other about being peace officers. Did you double take when you heard that? What occurred to you?

Fisher: Yeah, I thought it was funny. I thought I was watching a Saturday Night Live clip of President Obama when I saw that. It's strange. On the one hand he said exactly what many of us believe, that we shouldn't be the world police, and then on the other hand he said, but we are the world's police. I don't agree with that. I don't think that's what we should be, and as the world's police, where do we stop? My big thing is, where do we stop? How do we decide who is deserving of police action and who's not deserving of police action?

Werman: Well, that's a fair question, and since you're a veteran of the Iraq War and Kosovo, is that one of the questions you still have? What else do you need to hear from President Obama?

Fisher: Well, to prove that this is a peaceful thing for the US. I don't think it is. I think stopping what's going on with the chemical weapons, I think that's all good stuff. This is a great chance to use other resources that we have. Maybe, as far-fetched as this may sound, maybe we need to engage the Iranians more, maybe we need to talk to them more. They have a new leader, maybe that's someone we can work with. Maybe we can take other routes. I think it's good that he can use the military option, because whether Congress allows him or not, he can still use the military option, and that's going to keep things in play, but I think that maybe we should use diplomacy in other ways instead of always having the big stick.

Werman: It almost sounds, Marc, like you are looking for Washington to tell us what this definition of America's role in the world is these days. Has that been made clear to you?

Fisher: Washington's always going to say that it's our job to do these things. They're going to come up with different reasons why we should be the world's police. It could be chemical weapons in Syria, it could be genocide in the Balkans, who knows what's over the horizon, Chinese aggression in the Pacific. I don't know what it's going to be, but I think they're always going to try and push us as the world's police so we maintain our interests. But I think that there comes a point when you have to stop.

Werman: So do you agree or disagree with the notion that chemical weapons in Syria are a threat to American national security?

Fisher: Honestly, I don't think it's a threat. That's my opinion, but I don't think it's a threat to US national security.

Werman: Marc Fisher, Iraq War veteran, also served in Kosovo. Thanks very much. Great to speak with you again.

Fisher: Thank you, Marco.

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