President Obama wants us to believe he doesn’t intend to go to war against Syria. There will be no Boots On the Ground. Good so far. But launching bombs or missiles on another country’s territory – however “limited” that attack is – is an Act of War. And if history teaches any lesson, it is that once you have a war on your hands, the consequences are not likely to be “limited.”
If the strike on Syria is as limited as Obama seems to be suggesting, so as not to provoke serious retaliation and more war but just “send a message,” it won’t do any good. On the other hand, escalating the force used to a more serious level would be a step toward sending our young men and women to fight and die in yet another foreign country.
The lesson taught by our recent history of such interventions is that they cost way more in blood and treasure than was predicted, and do not, after all, result in anything that looks much like peace, stability, or democracy.
The question Obama has put to Congress basically is, “How much military force should be applied to “deter” the Syrian government from using chemical weapons and/or degrade its capability to use such weapons?” The President deserves credit for consulting Congress, and for allowing the answer to possibly be “None.” But that question assumes too much, assumes the Syrian government is guilty, when even Obama’s own people admit the evidence is “no slam dunk.” And assumes that military force is our only option.
Criticism of Obama’s framing of the question is coming from both the left and the right. Ultra-conservative commentator Thomas Sowell, for example, begins his column (in the September 6 issue of the VT-N), with “Why are we even talking about taking military action in Syria?” Sowell also points to the reality behind the rhetoric: “Military action is a polite phrase for killing people.”
The more fundamental questions that should be raised are “What is the proper role of military force in American foreign policy,” and above all, “Who decides what is in the best interest of we the people.”
Since Obama has implicitly conceded that the President alone does not decide, this is our opportunity to insist that our voices be heard. We must demand that our Congressional representatives listen to us and debate the fundamental issues, including practical non-military alternatives. Yes, there are other options. Many conservatives and progressives are speaking out, often in one accord, on this issue. Might it be that this is our chance to begin re-creating that “democracy” of, by and for the people which we proclaim? Not government by presidential decree or corporate (as in military/industrial complex) control.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation offers a toll-free U.S. Capitol switchboard number 1-855-686-6927 that you can use to raise your voice to Rep. Mike Rogers, Senator Richard Shelby, and Senator Jeff Sessions. FCNL also offers a good list of serious questions to be asked about Syria. See http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/10_syria_questions_for_kerry_and_hagel/
Earnestly, Jim Allen and Judy Collins