THE VOICE OF REASON
Syria

MORE TROUBLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST 

Sabers are rattling and war drums are beating -- again! The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are apparently not enough for war-mongering officials in Washington. We now are on the perilous verge of an attack against Syria. 

It is alleged that Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, used sarin gas against his own people, although he has denied doing so. Secretary of State John Kerry argues that the case against Assad is certain “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The conventional narrative throughout the American media is that Assad is guilty.  I frankly don’t know what to believe, but I have little to no confidence in Kerry or in the media. 

Let’s assume, however, that Kerry has it right for once in his life.  What kind of attack does the United States intend to initiate?  The answer is an antiseptic one, in which no one will get his or her hands dirty. There’ll be “no boots on the ground,” no protracted involvement, no attempted regime change, and a scheduled exit. What efficacy will such an attack have?  Assad will remain unmoved, and the United States will be despised more than ever. 

Why nothing positive from this attack? Because Obama has imprudently made a public decision publicly, and most of the facts regarding the attack have already been “telegraphed” to Assad. The element of surprise is missing, and the dictator is prepared for it. 

Friends of the administration might respond:  “Hey, that’s okay.  The point of the war is simply to direct a few hundred cruise missiles into Syria. The rationale is not to topple Assad or to take control of the country, but to slap his wrists and to send a firm message to the tyrants of the world to refrain from the use of chemical weaponry.” What bull! 

If this rationale sounds half-baked and contrived to you, you certainly aren’t alone. The British are obviously scratching their heads too.  Oh, but why should any American be pessimistic?  After all, men of unassailable character, with immense stature, integrity, and foreign policy acumen, like Obama, Kerry, and Chuck Hagle, who inspire monumental respect and confidence both at home and abroad, will be at the helm leading us. To buttress their case for the strike, even “tough-minded conservative” thinkers, such as John Boehner, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, will join in support of it. In case you haven't recognized it, I’m being nastily facetious. 

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that attacking Syria could cost the United States billions of dollars by the time it’s over. I suspect that Washington politicians are as insightful in this effort as they are in managing the budget.  Since we already have a $17 trillion debt, I can imagine they're thinking, “Well, why the hell not spend billions of dollars more? All we have to do is to print more money.” Finances, after all, are no object when emotive “moral” arguments are made in the name of “humanity” to Congress.  It’s an institution everyone realizes is the paragon of morality, right?  Pardon me, while I laugh. 

But hold on a minute.  What’s happening in Syria is between Syrians, isn’t it? Sure, the use of chemical weapons, especially on one’s own people, is horrific. Seems like we've heard this before about another Middle Eastern tyrant. What did the Dems say about that? Isn’t Syria about a civil war?  Elements of the Syrian population want to oust Assad, and he’s holding on.  Whatever.  Let Syrians work that out. Our national security is not involved.  

Call me cynical, but this crisis seems to have virtually everything to do with an egotistical, amateurish American president who shot off his big mouth about “a red line” and is now desperately trying to save face. The doddering, dull-witted, grandstanding McCain now pleads with the American people to understand how catastrophic it could be if Congress refuses to support Obama in this attack. What a load of crap!  I don’t see that it would be catastrophic at all for the Congress to send a message to the world that it won’t approve any such measure against any foreign power except to defend United States’ interests and that the Syrian crisis does not meet that test.  No more treasure, and certainly no more blood, should be expended by this nation on any war where America’s own security is not at stake. 

Most moral arguments in the world of international politics are disingenuous. (Machiavelli once addressed that reality I believe.)  When politicians make a moral appeal on the basis of what some Middle Eastern dictator is or is not doing to his people, I’m skeptical.  It would even be ludicrous if their words and deeds did not have the potential of fomenting a major war, involving not only the Middle East, but also Russia and China. Are you really comfortable trusting the judgment and ability of Obama and Kerry to direct our involvement in this conflict and to contain it if it should tend to escalate?  I have zero confidence in these men, and I don’t think I’m alone in the world. 

Here’s another issue to consider:  Why do you think that Obama decided to request the approval of Congress in order to strike Syria?  First off, it certainly isn’t because he has any constitutional qualms about waging war in the absence of Congressional approval. A casual glance at his record shows that he’s bypassed Congress on numerous occasions. He admits that he believes he has the authority to initiate a unilateral strike. Second, by requesting Congressional approval, it is hardly reasonable to assume that what was and is driving Obama is the protection of the Syrian people from another chemical attack.  My Gosh, Assad could gas his own people again before the debate is completed and the vote is taken. So, again, why has Obama sought the approval of Congress? He feels uncomfortably alone in this crisis, because he is. He doesn’t like being in this position.  Remember?  He likes to lead from behind. 

If Congress agrees with his proposal, which turns out to have been wrong-headed, he can always contend that he acted with its advice and consent.  It will share the misery and the blame with him.  If Congress should, however, say “no” to him (as it should), then he will attempt to save face by criticizing those who voted against him, stating that they tied his hands in enforcement of the “red line.” Whatever happens thereafter will be the fault of Congress. Our magnanimous President has always been most comfortable in the posture of blaming others. 

One last question: Whom do you think will profit most from a crisis in Syria?  Not the Syrians.  Not Israel. Not Turkey. Certainly not the United States.  It will be none other than defense contractors, especially the one that manufactures Tomahawk missiles and sells them to the government for a million dollars a pop.  The Raytheon Corporation’s stock has skyrocketed since the Syria situation has been gathering steam.  It’s hard for me to visualize the CEO of Raytheon crying anything but crocodile tears over the prospect of lobbing a few missiles into another country.  Like it or not, we live in a “corporate state” where government and big business call the shots.  That has been the degenerative odyssey of liberalism in America. 

I doubt that it will make an iota of difference whether or not the American people favor this war.  What else is new?

September 4, 2013