At the outset, Syrian government’s actions are indefensible.
That said, settling the score in Syria on behalf of the scores of innocent victims of gas attack by their own government seems appealing, reasonable and warranted.
But is it that cut and dried? Can we be sure about the short and long run outcomes? Do we know the agenda of all the players pushing for coercive action? Given that the UK and Germany have distanced themselves, is it really our job to do?
First, face saving our typically calm and thoughtful President cannot be any reason for a military retaliation.
Secondly, after going through two wars almost a decade and half long and with a constant drone presence over the enemy territory, how can stepping back send wrong signal to our enemies suggesting weakness?
Thirdly, that by seeking approval of the Congress makes the President appear less presidential is an utter absurdity on the part of Representative Peter King.
Fourthly, having entirely sidestepped the brutal military coup in Egypt against its first ever elected government, any intervention in Syria carries dual messages: One, that of hypocrisy and two, that of a desperate bid to restore image as the Champion of Democracy.
Fifthly, by one German account, there was a command and control failure causing this abomination. Renegade officers pulled the trigger despite the Syrian Administration’s refusal to grant permission to do so.
Sixth, following an earlier gas attack, a similar outpouring of outrage and saber rattling was directed at Syria. It was later disproved. This time around we are getting too close to the real thing, so we need evidence. We cannot wait for another Wikileak or NSA leak to find out what really happened.
Seventh, NJ’s Senator Bob Menendez is the mover of this resolution. It’s not clear who his Pied Piper is. He has been a rabid, wanton anti-Iranian, being either the architect or the pusher of every new sanction-laden bill against that country. So, it is not clear whether this is a ploy to bring Iran to task by punishing its sole regional ally. Despite being a Democrat, his goal seems to be to corner his Party’s President to go into war with Iran by delegitimizing all other options.
Eight, will this attack win the war for the rebels? Hardly!
Ninth, does that mean the attack has to be massive, widespread and sustained? It appears to be the case. The military has gone through multiple iterations of its mission and it is now supposed to last for 60 days and cover the length and breadth of the country! Whoa!! So, now, Syria’s Civil War, in all likelihood, will become our war and soon we will be expected to own all of the fallout because we added to the mess and multiplied it many folds. Thus, in a few years should a US Ambassador be killed in Latakia, Aleppo or Damascus, we should not have to search to place the blame.
Tenth, what will such an air campaign likely do to Syria? It will be rendered a hollow shell, made amorphous bereft of tangible governmental structures and made porous to all forms of uncivil elements. The transition will not have been organic. It will become like the unmanageable Benghazi or the imploding democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan for which our patriotic soldiers sacrificed so dearly and to which the embedded media gave a pass.
Eleventh, with massive and complete intervention, the outcome may parallel that in South East Asia in the late 1960s when Laos and Cambodia were bombed to tatters. Thus, Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s stable, organic government lost its hold over Cambodia. Soon Pol Pot followed and the Killing Fields ensued. The minority-majority divide is starker in Syria than it was in Rwanda. So, should the Syrian regime collapse wholesale without any recourse to negotiation, terrible retribution will most likely follow. A longer war though painful is likely to produce better government. The cases in point are Vietnam and Bangladesh: 30 years vs. 9 months of struggle. Victory is not an end in of itself!
Dr. Shafi A. Khaled is a freelance writer. He teaches and does research in Business & Economics.