GUEST COMMENTARY: Action in Syria could lead to moral crisis for US

Monday, September 9, 2013 | 1:27 p.m. CDT

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.

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Skip Yates September 9, 2013 | 5:45 p.m.

Nice article. There is no military reason for a strike in Syria, indeed, a matter of targeting is an equal matter of confusion. Notice how the Defense Department (General Dempsy) is looking like the "deer in the headlights" on this. The only thing, at this point that can be done is to destroy his air force, since they have been forewarned of the possibility. Suspect, also, is just whom deployed gas. There was no military reason for Assad to do that, in the manner in which the number of gas attacks occurred on such a small scale in disconnected neighborhoods. No tier one, two or three plans, which any military organization would have employed. And, the Syrian military is a lot more sophisticated than that of the Iraq military in our last war. Nor would the stupidity of doing so have happened when a UN inspector team was in country for the very same issue. All this is nothing more than trying to put a bandage on the international and national reputation and failure of an inept president and inept state department. A consistency of on-going failures since the support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 9, 2013 | 6:47 p.m.

The degradation products of sarin are pretty specific if taken within a week. There's nothing else isopropyl methylphosphonic acid could come from.

I'm against any intervention/attack, but perhaps not for reasons you may think.

First, I have no confidence the American people will take any action to its conclusion. Historically, our "attention span" encompasses 3 years and after that we're basically done. In this case, the attention span will be shorter and we won't see it through.

Second, I have no confidence this President has the wherewithal or the cajones. He's a foreign-policy wuss. He cannot, and will not, lead America to any successful foreign incursion.

Third, having watched the middle east activities since the early '60s, I no longer care what happens over there in Arab countries. Contain them, and to hell with them. It's their problem.

PS: "Contain them" means "not allowed here".

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates September 9, 2013 | 10:45 p.m.

@Michael: Yep!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 10, 2013 | 6:51 a.m.

...could lead to moral crisus in US."

I'm with Skip and Michael. Besides that, we are fully capable of growing "moral crises" here in North America. :)

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates September 11, 2013 | 5:08 p.m.

@Ellis: I think the leadership in Washington is a moral crisis...but; unfortunately, in today's political climate, that opinion would automatically make me a racist, wouldn't it?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 12, 2013 | 6:02 a.m.

@ Skip Yates:

I don't know, Skip, if it would make you a racist, BUT IT WOULD DAMNED SURE QUALIFY YOU AS A REALIST.

Please don't quit the scene, Skip, there is a terrible shortage of realists as it is.

(Report Comment)

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