If Assad did really use chemical weapons against his enemies, then — as already mentioned — this supposedly crosses the “red line” that Obama so stupidly stipulated as a kind of line in the sand. This was an intended — but unfortunate — sound bite for the press, and should not be construed as a rationale — or worse, an excuse — for going to war. Americans need to be a little more vigilant this time around, and not let the country get dragged into another pointless and expensive war.
The White House now is asking for authority from Congress for a “limited strike” — what ever that means? — that will not remove the Assad regime but only degrade his capability to use these weapons in the future. No matter what the administration might choose to call this action, when you launch an attack inside the boundaries of a sovereign nation (no matter how despicable its leader) it’s still an act of war, a provocation that invites a response. What if the “limited strike” contemplated by the administration prompts an attack on Israel? Then what do we do? As a nation we have to ask ourselves if we’re ready to bear that responsibility. Once you set these forces in motion — let loose the dogs of war — you can’t really predict what’s going to happen. The genie by then is out of the bottle. At the bottom of all these arguments (moral and strategic) for some sort of preemptive strike on Syria is the always hopeful assumption that we can influence events in a way that is positive for the U.S. This is not really realistic folks. Look back at what happened in Iraq.
We think we know who the “good guys” are in Syria. But alliances in the Middle East are as shifting and uncertain as the desert sand. Groups that are fighting together now as elements of the FSA could — if the Assad regime was ultimately toppled — end up fighting one another in the ensuing power vacuum. And whose side will we be on then? This is a situation fraught with danger for the United States. If the Saudis are concerned about the security threat that the Syria problem represents to the region, then let them and their regional allies (the other Gulf states) fight this war. After all, it’s their own backyard. They have the money, and all the newest and most up-to-date U.S. military equipment. Let’s let them pay for this go-round. We need to understand that we are never going to make the difference in the Middle East. We are never going to bring the region to peace. And, as I said before, this is not our fight.
We’ve demonstrated a pattern in past conflicts (going back to Korea and Vietnam, and most recently Iraq) that does not bode well for us getting involved in Syria. We always start out with what we innocuously term just a limited commitment — military aid, some secret intelligence, some vehicles, small arms and light military hardware. But that always falls short and fails (as it must) and escalates into a full scale involvement. You can’t fight a war with half measures. Either you’re all-in or all-out. An attack on Syria by the U.S. — no matter how limited — is still a provocation and an act of war. It will put us in a direct confrontation with Russia and further exacerbate an already frayed and unraveling relationship. It will complicate our dealings with Iran, a Syrian patron, over its developing nuclear program. The stakes here are high, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the adverse outcomes from an attack — no matter how “limited” — on Syria.
We all remember well that made for TV moment in May 2003 with George W. Bush in a flight suit proudly declaring “Mission Accomplished” on board the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. We should probably also remember that in the ensuing years — in the Iraqi insurgency, following the “Bush Liberation” — more than a hundred thousand innocent Iraqi citizens (most of them women and children) would be killed in the raging sectarian violence that followed the president’s then premature declaration of victory.
This sudden concern over the use of chemical weapons is more than a little perplexing. I mean what’s worse, being killed in a chemical weapons attack, dying in a cross-fire hail of bullets, or being blown apart by an IED? These are all violent deaths. The distinction, I would think, is mostly irrelevant — at least for the victims. We should remember that in Rwanda young children had their arms and hands amputated by rebels wielding machetes and this drew nothing but a yawn from the U.S. government at the time.
America can’t be the policeman of the world, nor should we alone be the conscience of the world. If these other countries are truly abhorred by the use of chemical weapons, then it is time for them to stand up and collectively make their voices heard, and match their deeds and actions to their words. America should not have to do this alone.
If America wants to hold itself up as the moral beacon of the world, then we need to lead by example and make diplomacy the first choice, and warfare the last resort. Americans are right to be concerned about what is going on in Syria, but they are also right to be concerned about mission creep, to be skeptical about shoddy intelligence and the overall efficacy of limited air strikes, and what kind of blow-back could come from a U.S. attack on Syria.
The U.S. has no role to play in this current crisis other than a diplomatic one. Let’s be clear, Syria poses no direct or imminent threat to the United States. We are seriously kidding ourselves if we think we can perpetrate an act of war on a sovereign nation and then micro-manage the resulting retaliation and conflict to some acceptable outcome.
More fighting is not the way to peace. It will only engender more violence (perhaps even another 9/11 style domestic attack on the U.S.) and even more hatred. And there’s already enough bitterness and hatred coming out of the Middle East. Arab against Arab. And Arab against Jew. If we really wanted to help in a positive way then we’d make an honest and determined effort to re-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Because that’s the problem at the bottom of most of the trouble, the principle reason for the Arab hatred and defiance of the West.
The Money Trader