With the Obama administration beating the drums for another war of choice on Syria, it is time for Missourians of good conscience to take notice.
The specter of weapons of mass destruction is once again being trotted out to frighten us into going to war, based on a hodgepodge of YouTube videos, the conflicting reports of various factions in Syria’s civil war, and intelligence of dubious origins. But is there really a case for this war that can justify the stark human and moral costs, the high likelihood of future blowback and escalation, and the grave risk of widening a narrow civil war into a global conflict, which would follow from such an attack? That case has yet to be made effectively.
This much is certain; once the gears of war are set in motion, the inherent costs and dangers will be virtually impossible to avoid.
Even limited strikes on Syria will no doubt come with a significant human toll. Beyond the combatants, collateral damage inflicted on civilians by raining Tomahawk missiles and airstrikes down is inevitable, particularly if highly volatile and intrinsically hazardous chemical weapons stockpiles are targeted.
Moreover, the weight of recent research into the effects of military interventions into other countries’ internal conflicts strongly suggests that a United States attack on Syria would likely lead to an escalation of atrocities against the civilian population by a cornered Assad regime: exactly the opposite result that the Obama administration claims to be seeking.
Going ahead with military action against Syria in the face of growing opposition in Congress, widespread disapproval of the American people, and discord among the international community would constitute a moral crisis for the United States. Lawlessness replacing Constitutional checks and balances, autocracy replacing the consent of the governed, and international isolation replacing respect for international norms and the laws of war. A nation that we have historically upheld as one of laws and limited government will have become just another callous, cynical power player on the world stage of realpolitik.
After decades of American military intervention in the Middle East, the phenomenon of blowback has become all too familiar. Adding fuel to the fire of volatile and deadly conflicts that plague this region has come back to bite us again and again, with both innocent Americans and the civilian populations of the region suffering the brunt of the United States' recurrent policy blunders.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not the definition of a prudent and realistic foreign policy.
Escalating international tensions over the possibility of unilateral military action by the Obama administration pose a far greater threat to the American people and the entire world than anything Assad’s embattled regime could possibly muster. To risk touching off a broader war in the Middle East would be to endanger millions of innocent lives. Such a conflict could involve regional powers known to possess substantial nuclear arsenals, or potentially even spark a direct conflict between the United States and other world powers.
The stakes are high, and clearly the burden of proof is on those urging a headlong rush to war. No amount of credibility or national prestige can justify the deadly game President Obama is playing with the lives of the people of Syria, the United States, and the world.
Jim Chappelow, of Columbia, is president of Keep Columbia Free.