The justifications for war in Syria are all wrong

In the interest of curiosity and “fairness,” I decided to seek out what others are saying about why we need to intervene in Syria. I came across this handy Atlantic article, which details various reasons from readers.

David Ignatius argued this in The Washington Post:

What does the world look like when people begin to doubt the credibility of U.S. power? Unfortunately, we’re finding that out in Syria and other nations where leaders have concluded they can defy a war-weary United States without paying a price.

My response is as follows:

George Carlin is spot on. I don’t buy into this credibility argument. So, we need to bomb the Syrians to “prove a point?” To establish our credibility? We need to kill people to show others how big our dick is?

Here’s a case for intervening based on the use of chemical weapons:

If we allow Assad to use chemical weapons without painful military retaliation, he will use them repeatedly. Will the Saudis just stand by or will they arm their Sunni brethren in Syria with chemical weapons too?   What if Assad uses biological weapons?

I absolutely oppose American involvement in Syria in any other situation except Assad or any one else’s use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Assad must not be given tacit permission by our inaction to use them as a routine, accepted weapon of war. If chemical weapons are acceptable for Assad to use, they could easily become “conventional” weapons of war in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Will chemical warfare then leak over from Syria to Iraq? And Lebanon? Afghanistan? The Caucasus?

I understand the argument, but it feels like a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, chemical weapons are nasty and they seem bad, but are they measurably worse than conventional weapons that largely kill far more people than chemical weapons? Why is that the basis for getting involved and not the thousands already slaughtered by those conventional weapons?

Combining the previous two arguments is this one:

Maybe bombings and missile strikes won’t cause Assad to change his behaviour one bit, or diminish his military capability, or loosen his grip on power.  But I agree with [Eugene Robinson of the WaPo] that “The president was right to make chemical-weapons use the ‘red line’ that Assad must not cross.”

And here’s the thing: even if you don’t believe Obama was right to declare that red line, he did declare it.  That now means his credibility, in front of the whole world, is on the line.  So if military intervention in response to a chemical attack is not a wise policy, the mistake was made when the president made that “red line” declaration.  Now, he has to follow through.

So, essentially, Obama fucked up by declaring a “red line” with the use of chemical weapons, thus, to save face, we gotta go ahead and bomb Syria. Great reasoning there. We’re talking life or death here. I don’t give a fuck about Obama’s credibility or what the political implications would be for the United States. I just don’t. That doesn’t sway me.

Now, this one is curious:

What’s actually being discussed in Washington is whether or not to do a punitive strike in response to the use of chemical weapons, and if so, how “robust” it should be.  That’s it.  Whack whatever part of Assad’s military infrastructure can be whacked with cruise missiles and maybe Stealth bombers without incurring too many civilian casualties, then quit.

Could we please discuss the pros and cons of that, instead of the pros and cons of something that nobody (except maybe Bill Kristol) is contemplating?  It seems like a good idea to me, but I’d like to hear a sensible discussion of why it might or might not be, and I’m not finding it.

(I was utterly opposed to the Iraq war from the beginning for all the usual reasons.  I was absolutely in favor of taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan, but then I thought we should get out, leaving behind a stern warning, and let the object lesson stand.)

He’s right. Thus far, there is no talk of “boots on the ground.” It’s just supposedly a limited engagement via strategic bombings. And the reader calls any insinuation to the contrary to be a strawman. Yet, we should always be skeptical of “limited engagements.” They’re never limited or if they are (like in Libya), they still have adverse consequences.

There are a few more examples provided in the article articulating reasons for going in, but I simply do not find them convincing. Others apparently do.

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