Dear President Obama,
Please remember these words first used in 1888 by Friedrich Nietzsche: "What does not destroys me makes me stronger." Stated another way, a weak attack or one badly executed against your opponent could be worse than no attack at all.
You are not the first president who’s had to choose whether to strike or not to strike and many have chosen wrongly. So much so, they ended up emboldening their opponent.
President Kennedy's failed Bay of Pigs invasion turned Fidel Castro into a “Rasputin-like” mystical figure. To this day, photos in Cuban text books depict Castro on the beaches of “Bahía de Cochinos” (...) amid bombs exploding around him.
In the case of Syria, that opponent — or at least his 11-year-old son — is already setting us up. Hafez Assad, son of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is reportedly goading you, Mr. Obama, into attacking.
“I just want them to attack soooo much,” he allegedly posted on Facebook, “because I want them to make this huge attack a beginning of something that they don’t know the end of.”
He continues his dare with a youthful bravado that seems to predict a U.S. attack will be a win for his father’s government.
“They may have the best army in the world, maybe the best airplanes, ships and tanks than ours, but soldiers? No (one) has soldiers like we do in Syria … America doesn’t have soldiers, what (it) has is some cowards with new technology that claim themselves liberators.”
Mr. President, youthful bluster aside, you should take heed of the Assad dare, because historically, it’s not too far off the mark. Let me give you an example of U.S. military action that, while well intentioned, actually empowered the enemy.
To those of us who live in Miami, it's known as "Playa Girón." You, Mr. President know it as "the Bay of Pigs," an unsuccessful military invasion of Cuba undertaken in April 1961 by 1,400 counter-revolutionaries who were for the most part Cuban exiles. Determined to take their country back from Fidel Castro, the insurgents, who were funded and trained by the CIA, were instead slaughtered by Castro’s forces in what was a half-hearted effort to send the socialist government a message, much like the message we're now trying to send Assad.
Here in Miami there are monuments and lessons left behind, like the one passed on from one generation to the next about how easily Cuba would have fallen if the citizens of the island nation would have been persuaded to take arms against the Castro regime. Mr. President, your predecessor could have convinced them with proper planning and execution of the invasion, but he failed.
In fact, President Kennedy's epic fail is immortalized by the oft-told story of two “guajiros,” or poor farmers, who witnessed the invasion. It goes like this: The men were looking out over the horizon as the attack began and saw planes buzzing above the beaches. Thinking they were American planes, as JFK had promised, the poor peasant farmers began yelling “USA, USA, USA!” But as the planes got closer, they realized they were Soviet-made fighters and altered their chant to “Castro, Sí, Yankee, No!”
Kennedy's planes never came, he broke his promise and was forced to make an embarrassing apology tour at Miami’s Orange Bowl, where he praised the men of Brigade 2506. With first lady Jacqueline by his side, he welcomed back the prisoners captured and subsequently released by the Castro government.
Mr. President, the man who once sat in your chair tried to embolden the spirits of the defeated exile community in Miami, but what his fateful military decision really did was embolden Fidel Castro. You, sir, should learn from his mistake. President Kennedy's failed Bay of Pigs invasion turned Fidel Castro into a “Rasputin-like” mystical figure. To this day, photos in Cuban text books depict Castro on the beaches of “Bahía de Cochinos” during the attack seeming every bit of his 6-foot-3 inch frame amid bombs exploding around him.
Madison Avenue could not have conjured up a better outcome for the Castro government. Nor conversely, could it have gone worse for the U.S.-led invasion. The message was clear: A military incursion meant to send a message while weakening the opposition, did not work. In fact, its incompleteness caused the opposite to happen. Castro seemed to grow taller.
It was true with Cuba, and it may very well be true with Syria, Mr. President. If after the U.S. attack on Syria Assad is able to fulfill his son’s prophecy and come out on top, then you, sir, and your administration will have made a grave mistake.
The history lesson, which we in Miami know only too well, is one, Mr. President, which you must at least consider. Recall again the words of Nietzsche more than a century ago, he spelled out a warning which today would go something like this:
"Be careful, Mr. President, because what you do that doesn’t destroy Assad, may only make him stronger."