- September 8, 2013 in Columnists
Syria just may be Pandora’s Box
Syria. What should be done in a country where a bloody civil war has cost over 100,000 lives? Both the U.S. and British governments say they’ve confirmed that sarin nerve gas has been used in Syria by the government to kill over 1,400 people outside Damascus last month. The Guardian reported that the Syrian government dropped a napalm-like incendiary device on a school playground that killed over 10 children and horrifically burned others. Atrocity after atrocity is piling up.
The point is, there have always been horrific civil wars, massacres, torture and the like going on in this world. Many of the governments and actors we’ve aligned ourselves with are no better on the morality scale than the people we’re fighting. Our partners in the war on terror, the Uzbeks, sodomize prisoners, give them pepper extract enemas and pour boiling water over them, yet they remain our ally. Does anyone believe that a government that replaces Assad’s will be less reactionary, less authoritarian, less anti-American than the one in power? Do you think the rebels would have any reservations about using chemical weapons themselves?
The ghastly video released this week of rebel forces summarily executing Syrian forces reportedly made the New York Times editors who screened the unedited video physically ill.
And if the suffering of innocents is enough to get the world’s mightiest nation to act, then how come we haven’t acted in Detroit? In Detroit, 60% of children live in poverty. Crime is through the roof, with most murders going unsolved. Or what about the body count in Chicago, with innocents getting caught in the crossfire between warring gangs and drug dealers? Where’s the outcry?
But the larger point is what threat does Syria pose to us, and would bombing eliminate, reduce or worsen that threat? It’s horrible what’s going on over there and while it certainly pricks the conscience, is it a matter of American national security?
Is it sad that children are dying? Yes. Is it horrible that innocents are caught in the crossfire and are dying? It surely is. But over 8,000 people have died in the Mexican drug wars this year. Hundreds are dying in the Sudan, the Congo, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, Burma and on and on.
When I think of the Syria question, there are four things that come to mind. The first thing is, I understand the world being skeptical of U.S. claims of WMDs being used in Syria because of the Bush Administration crying wolf in Iraq. And it’s not just the usual crazies who are speculating if Syrian chemical weapons use is a “false flag” operation to give U.S. cover to attack. Some speculate the real target is Iran. When your government lies the nation into war and then proceeds to engage in unprecedented spying on American citizens, why would anyone be shocked that a war weary public would be skeptical?
The second thing is that the U.N. needs to dissolve as a body if it’s incapable of consistent enforcement of conventions and norms. The permanent U.N. Security Council’s veto power means the body will always be manipulated and neutered by the members. Why do nations sign compacts against chemical weapons if they haven’t the heart to enforce them? I guess it’s easy for countries to sign on to something if they fully expect enforcement to fall to the U.S. while they continue to pour their money into their nanny states.
Third, it doesn’t matter if we engage in a “limited strike” in Syria. In war, your opponent gets a vote. What if Syria fires sarin or VX gas tipped missiles at Tel Aviv? What’s Israel’s’ response? What’s Iran’s response? Lebanon? What if Russia isn’t bluffing about helping Syria? What if Moscow shares satellite photos of our ships’ positions and Syria sinks one of our Destroyers? What happens if U.S. and Russian forces exchange fire?
Lastly, and this is my real problem with getting involved in Syria: I don’t trust our allies on the ground. We’ve seen this movie before. In Afghanistan, after giving cash and weapons to the Mujaheddin against the Soviets, they turned against the U.S.
What happens if we help the rebels topple Assad in Syria? What happens to the control over that nation’s stockpile of chemical weapons? What happens when they hold elections and vote in a strict, brutal, Sharia-law-following theocratic government? Let’s face it. While they’ll gladly accept our money and arms and air power to help them now, that’s not Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and James Madison over there.
While it’s terrible that a brutal dictator may be using chemical weapons to aid in his slaughter of his own people, what I worry about is aerosolized sarin aboard a BART train in the tunnel between Oakland and San Francisco. I worry about Syrian sarin nerve gas in the New York subway system or at an NFL game, rock concert or shopping mall.
I don’t know if Congress is going to authorize force or if the President will use force whether he’s authorized to or not. But if we help rid the world of a brutal, anti-American dictator only to replace him with brutal, anti-American, jihadist dictators what have we accomplished?
- September 9, 2013 at 11:54 pm