No U.S. Military Attacks On Syria
With the Iraq War an all too recent memory and the war in Afghanistan being further extended as the longest war in US history, President Obama has asked Congress to approve military action against Syria in response to alleged use of chemical weapons by government forces against Syrian civilians. In my opinion, the President should abide by prevailing American public opinion, as well as predominating international preference and rescind his plan to conduct military strikes against Syria at this time. Furthermore, Congress should vote not to authorize such action as requested by the President last weekend.
The American people are tired of seemingly endless and increasingly pointless wars. The memory of the lead-up to the Iraq War is all too fresh in our minds, along with the faulty intelligence (read here “lies”) about the existence of weapons of mass destruction which seemed to have vanished into thin air as soon as we invaded the country. The claims in this case are different and the intelligence may in fact be valid, but that still does not warrant the actions the President has sought authorization for from Congress. Telling us that we will not have American military personnel with boots on the ground in Syria as we did in Iraq and do in Afghanistan does not negate the seriousness or costs of the damage we would inflict, both on the Syrian people and , more indirectly, the American people.
The whole dog and pony show of having Congress conduct hearings with secret briefings of classified intelligence so they can add to the Administration’s calls to “trust us” because we know stuff you don’t know, and you’d agree with us if you did, is a bit too patronizing for a free and open society. If you can’t tell us why we need to do this in a more convincing fashion than you have managed so far, you’d best not start shooting stuff that explodes in anger in my name.
Use of chemical weapons has been condemned by the international community for many years. Most countries are party to an international treaty banning their use (Syria is one of the few countries that did not sign that treaty). It has been estimated that over 100,000 Syrians have died in the course of a civil war that has been raging there for the past two years. Chemical weapons are blamed for the deaths of over 1,000. However, claims have been made that both government and rebel forces may have been involved in their use. UN inspectors have not yet reported their findings on the matter. US claims to have infallible intelligence as to their use by Syrian government forces have been met with skepticism by many at home and abroad – a healthy skepticism in light of the aforementioned situation in Iraq.
Even if all the intelligence data is correct and Assad’s forces are guilty of murdering fellow Syrians using chemical weapons, the proper response is not a military strike by US forces. There has been no attack on any US forces, installations or the US itself, nor has there been a credible threat to this country made by Syria. There are international criminal courts which were specifically designed to deal with situations such as this. Yugoslavia’s Milosevic was pending trial before one on crimes against humanity at the time of his death.(Of course, this was only after another military action by NATO, directed by the US, which I also opposed on similar grounds, but I digress). The Syrian conflict would not be resolved by a US surgical military strike of the type proposed by the President. He claims not to be seeking regime change, but that is difficult for many to believe, given the previous decision to arm the rebels and subsequent decision to beef up such support.
Other nations have the ability and means to further influence events in Syria. Several other countries have been aiding rebel groups. The Russians and Iranians have supported Assad. Other states in the region have far more at stake in the outcome of the Syrian conflict than the US does, yet they do not seek to join with the US in any potential action. Even the British seem to have learned a lesson or two from what happened in Iraq and are refusing to join a military strike, leaving this country even more alone in its plans than Bush found himself before invading Iraq in 2003.
Recent popularity polls in the US show a majority of the American people opposed to taking military action against Syria at this time. The argument that not acting militarily to oppose the grievous harm committed by Assad in gassing his people is turning our backs on them is absurd. There are other courses of action that could more effectively ameliorate the suffering of the Syrian people and insure that future use of chemical weapons does not occur. Many of these are included in the articles referenced below. This seeming preference for quick military action by the US needs to stop.
Congress is supposed to be returning from a recess of over a month this week. Once again, their attention is being diverted from the very real task of passing a budget to fund the government for the next fiscal year stating October 1. The President has asked this body (which has not demonstrated at any time in the past few years the ability to even walk and chew gum in the same week, let alone simultaneously) to deal with yet another costly proposed military action at the same time as it tries to solve all the other problems it has refused to deal with for years.
The time has come for our government to govern the US. We are neither the government nor the police force for the entire world – not even just the Middle East. The UN, Arab League and other bodies can easily deal with the situation in Syria. The US has and will undoubtedly choose to continue to provide humanitarian aid to deal with the very real problems faced by the displaced refugees and others caught in the crossfire of the conflict. We have no place trying to force a solution militarily all by ourselves. The billions of dollars to be spent exploding missiles and bombs destroying Syrian infrastructure and such, as was done in Yugoslavia and Iraq, can be much better spent building schools and bridges here at home. We need not look for additional extravagant ways to waste supposedly limited financial and human resources abroad when we are using the sequester to eliminate jobs and cutting programs vital to the wellbeing of many people right here at home.
Whenever there is a call for aid to help deal with emergency situations caused by natural disasters here, there are those in Congress who insist that every penny to be spent be accounted for and paid for out of existing funds – meaning cuts elsewhere. This standard is never applied to wars. Taxes pay for all this stuff, it doesn’t come out of thin air when you buy a million dollar missile anymore than it does when you buy Meals on Wheels or pay a Social Security recipient. So if you want to waste my tax money blowing up a radar installation in Syria you need to tax somebody to pay for it without cutting necessary social spending to needy people here. The military-industrial complex receives enough tax money already to pay for all the military aid we give away to dictatorships and authoritarian regimes who are our “friends”. .
I care deeply for people everywhere who are being oppressed and killed by their governments, not just Syria. The US does not have enough resources by itself to solve the problems in all of them. Even if we did, blowing people up to save them is a contradiction in terms. We’ve too long a history of mission creep and military quagmires to risk another now, when our economy, infrastructure and way too many of our own people need the resources more than the corporations selling the weapons to destroy the purported purveyors and producers of weapons of mass destruction wherever they may conveniently rear their heads at any given moment. As a nation, we care hypocrites when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, having used them multiple times more in the past than any other country on earth. Just ask the Japanese, Vietnamese and Iraqis, among others. Solve the Syrian situation without enriching and unleashing the dogs of war for a change. Maybe the Syrian people will be better off for it. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan don’t seem to be so far.
Suggested Further Readings: