No U.S. Military Strikes Against Syria

Image of Barack Obama

It’s as if some of our political leaders, including President Barack Obama, have lived in a different universe over the last decade.

Didn’t our so-called “war” (or, in real terms, a military occupation) in Iraq, which the U.S. began in 2003, result in the deaths of more than 4,000 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians?. Isn’t the cost of the Iraq war approaching $900 billion dollars? Haven’t a majority of Americans been very clear in recent years our country got into the war based on misinformation and that it wasn’t worth it in the end?

Yet here we go again. On Tuesday, Obama is supposed to speak to the American people and make the case for a military strike against Syria. Obama and his administration claim that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack on his own people, and this justifies American intervention.

Obama, it was reported, only wants a “limited” attack and will not send troops into the country, but this country has a terrible history of post-World War II escalating military actions. Does anyone remember the Vietnam War? What if the American action draws nearby Iran into the conflict? What will the U.S. do then? Just continue with its “limited” attack?

The entire question of whether chemical weapons are so much worse than conventional weapons becomes a ghoulish case of existential philosophy. Would you rather die from sarin gas or get blown to bits by a bomb? Both ways of dying are horrific and give evidence to mankind’s propensity for killing and cruelty. Either way is darkness. What’s so difficult to understand about that?

And, just like in 2003, there are international disputes over whether Assad ordered the gas attacks that apparently killed 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb? It’s a direct reminder of the failure of the American government to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after some experts and reporters disputed the claims. Have we not learned anything?

The support for bombing Syria and intervening in that country’s civil war has been tepid in the Congress. With historic hypocrisy, even some hawkish Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, seem reluctant to sign off on the president’s plan, and progressive groups have already mobilized efforts to oppose it.

There’s no question that Syria is an important country simply because of its geographic position on the world map. Its close proximity to Iraq, Iran and Israel make it a country that deserves our attention and scrutiny. There could come a time when European countries, such as France and England, along with the U.S., might need to intervene in that country’s civil war, but the risks of our involvement now far outweigh any perceived benefit for the world community.

I was one of those people who publicly opposed the war in Iraq at the beginning, and I noted firsthand through the years the shift in mood by what I saw as a bloodthirsty American public seeking revenge for the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. What I argued even before 2003—the war was strategically unnecessary, world sanctions would have worked, there were no WMDs—became a conventional response among Democrats and many Republicans alike. It’s surreal to me that this is happening again with a different country only 10 years later. Will I, again, be considered the outlier? I don't think so.

By all means, let’s be ready to take out military targets in Syria and protect the interests of our allies in the area, including, of course, Israel. But let’s act with restraint and prudence this time. It would be a mistake for the U.S. to proceed with any military strikes against Syria right now.