President Obama, by announcing that he will not bomb
Syria unless Congress authorizes it, has done the
I was deeply skeptical about claims that Assad’s military were the people who had used these weapons, but the evidence now does indicate that the Syrian government was the culpable party.
Even so, this does not mean that the
should poke its finger into this hornet’s nest.
Although Obama’s earlier drawing of a “red line” seems to require “doing
something” or risk making the U.S.
look like a paper tiger, there are
weighty reasons why we should not intervene.
Obama’s Saturday announcement gives Congress the ability to help him
escape from the corner into which he had unwisely painted himself.
What good would it do us, or the people of
Syria, if the U.S.
engages in a “limited” strike by cruise missiles? We cannot target the chemical weapons, even in the unlikely event we really know
where they are all stored. Destroying
chemical weapons without endangering nearby populations is difficult. Oregonians
may remember the tribulations
of the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal
Facility , which just
finished its work a couple of years ago.
American bombs cannot bring democracy to
Syria, nor can they be justified on humanitarian
grounds. Assad’s regime is indeed horrible, but destroying a horrible regime is not
likely to improve life for the population suffering under its rule. Saddam Hussein’s regime was horrible, and Husssein killed a lot of “his own” people
to preserve his rule, but now that he is
gone life in Iraq
is even more precarious as various factions that he had been able to repress
are now free to bomb weddings,
funerals, and everywhere else
innocent civilians gather.
Of course Mr. Obama says our intent in bombing is not to bring down Assad, which would seem to conflict with our general professed desire that he be brought down, and in any event does not mean that bombing won’t help bring him down.
The government forces lately seem to be winning. Our bombs, by weakening the government’s hand, could delay the end of the civil war and prolong the humanitarian tragedy. The population of
would best be served by an end to the war and all of its killings and
disruptions, whichever side wins. And a decisive victory by the government
would be more likely to stick than one by the rebels, who if they won would still have to fight it
out to see which faction among them would control things.
If the rebels win, they will then control the chemical weapons, and might provide them to the terrorist allies of some of the rebel factions.
All in all, the Syrian situation suggests once again that the
refrain from encouraging violent overthrows of existing regimes, no matter how bad. We should instead encourage reformers. Even
very bad regimes can be reformed from within, as we saw in the U.S.S.R. and
If Congress understands
true interests, it will not support
President Obama’s desire to bomb Syria. But in any event, Obama---for whom I do not regret voting even
though he has made mistakes---should be commended for recognizing his
constitutional duty to get Congressional authorization before engaging in acts
of war where no emergency requires immediate action.
This piece has run in the Adrian (Michigan) Daily Telegram.