Our government has been doing the foreign policy hokey pokey for a few weeks now. The mess in Syria was punted by the UN, leaving the President in the position to take a bold stand and simply tell the rest of the world that if they do not have the courage of their convictions, then all the blood in that beleaguered country is on their hands. Instead he did the all-too-predictable and suggested a “limited air strike” against Assad’s forces. He has since decided to take a cue from the United Nations and punt to Congress, but through it all he still wants that military engagement and he and his supporters say it is necessary to “make a point.”
Leaving aside for just a moment that just who is to blame for the deaths by chemical weapons in Syria is uncertain, why, unless we are going to commit ourselves to actually putting American forces in place to keep the peace (something I and most Americans are against), would we want to do this? What exactly does making a point do? Will Assad, a man who even without the use of chemical weapons has shown a woeful disregard for the lives of his own people, somehow see the light if a few hundred more of his soldiers are killed? Are we really that shallow in our understanding of human nature and our morals that we believe it is OK to kill anyone just to make a point?
Maybe you can feel better about this by saying “well, those soldiers do Assad’s bidding, killing rebels and innocent civilians alike.” This might be true, but are you really so eager to shed their blood? Does that bring back their victims? Does it keep Assad from killing more of his people? Of course it doesn’t. Besides, we are talking about doing all this with Tomahawk missiles, not exactly surgical instruments. How many of the people we are trying to make a point for will die in these strikes: one, a dozen, or a hundred? Are any collateral victims acceptable? I don’t think so, and I bet if you are a thinking, feeling human being, one of the people who were outraged ten years ago when we started lobbing missiles at Baghdad, you agree with me.
Doing anything just to make a point is pointless.Actions have consequences far beyond our intentions and certainly beyond letting someone know how we feel about something. When those consequences include throwing fuel on an already raging fire of civil war, civilian casualties, and making relations with Russia, one of two countries actually capable of throwing down with us, strained we should definitely proceed with caution. Otherwise the only point anyone will be getting is how easy it is to draw ourselves into another decade long conflict into which we throw our best and brightest into a meat grinder.
- Delay for Syria Debate Lets Pentagon Spot Missile Targets – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- U.S. Preparing for Syria Intervention (intlaffair.wordpress.com)
- The west’s threat to attack Syria is an idiotic gesture | Simon Jenkins (theguardian.com)
- Syria in waiting: Life goes on as all sides wait for the American missiles (itv.com)