Whatever your position on military action in Syria, your decision has likely been influenced by the Iraq War.
In 2003, the Bush administration told the US and the world that the invasion of Iraq was necessary in order to overthrow a sadistic leader; a leader who had used chemical weapons against Iran (with our blessings) and had even used chemical weapons against his own people (we drew no red line then). We were told that there was a growing mushroom cloud over Iraq and that, if we failed to act, that mushroom cloud would likely appear over the US. We were told that the invasion of Iraq would take a matter of days or weeks and that it would pay for itself through the profits from Iraqi oil.
We now know that the Bush administration lied. Even General Colin Powell who made the case before the UN admits that he was given faulty information and misled.
Now many of the same people behind the invasion of Iraq are calling for war with Syria’s Assad. John (the Warhawk) McCain was the first to weigh in, along with his partner in war Lindsey Graham. Former Bush Secretary of Offense, Donald Rumsfeld has also made his opinion known. So has Richard (The Dick) Cheney. They tell us that the reputation of the United States is at stake; that if we fail to strike, our enemies will walk all over us.
Do our enemies not already know that we spend more on our war machine than the next seven nations combined? And most of those are allies. None are actual enemies. Given that fact, it’s hard to imagine that a failure to strike against Assad in Syria will cause our enemies to start assembling their forces off our shores.
Today, our real enemies are small rogue nations and terrorist groups angered by all of our previous missteps, mostly in the Middle East, as the world’s self-proclaimed police force. Some of these enemies are the very people who are trying to defeat Assad. They will not be threatened by any strike against Assad. However, Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran might be.
The consequences of a rushed and ill-considered strike could be devastating. It could provoke Russia and Iran. It could destabilize Syria, much like Iraq. And it could embroil the entire region.
If the Obama administration is determined to send a message to Assad, it is going about it the right way in asking for a vote by Congress. (A strike against another government is, after all, an act of war and only Congress has the power to declare war.) Unlike Bush, the Obama administration should encourage that vote by presenting what we actually know about Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Not just what we think or want to believe.
Once Congress has voted, the US should take a well-substantiated case to the UN. After all, the ban of the use of chemical weapons is the result of an international treaty. We should not go it alone. We should not be rushed into action. We should not be pushed by the warmongers from a few countries in the region. And we should all recognize that, after Bush’s misadventures in Iraq, much of the rest of the world is understandably skeptical.
If the UN does approve military action against Assad, there should be a real coalition. Not some “coalition of the willing” as Bush claimed in Iraq. Any nation that votes for action should be willing to participate. And they should be willing to help pay for it.