Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Syria *sigh*

Let’s be honest. We are not going to bomb Syria because the use of chemical weapons is an abomination and we must, ethically and morally, enforce the UN ban on such horrible agents of war. We are going to bomb Syria to send a message to Iran and North Korea and any other rogue nations and groups (yes, that’s you Al Qaeda and Taliban). And maybe also to let Mr. Putin know we are still in charge no matter how awesome he is catching fish and hunting tigers.

Sorry, I’m not on board.

But it looks like the debate is about over in congress. What now? Here is the best outcome I can conceive of:

Obama uses his Congressional authorization to go back to the international community with a bit more oomph and say:

“Dudes, WTF? We’ve got a madman gassing people in the middle of the most volatile region on the planet and you are just gonna sit there with your arms crossed? Well that is just bullshit. Get off your comfy butts and do something. Say something. Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone home?”

I feel like we are playing a version of chess that everyone else is playing but with a slightly different set of rules and not cluing us in. And we are being outmaneuvered. I don’t like it. And this isn’t just Obama. This is the result of 30-some years of poorly executed international affairs, especially in the Middle East, maybe going back to Beirut. I just do not think we get it over there, yet we keep trying.  You may call this my hindsight bias. I’ll just say I’m trying to learn from history.

Obama’s charm is running thin even for those, like me, who voted for him. And 48% of the country thinks he was born on the moon. His ability to sell this at home is limited. But maybe the grass-roots campaigner has enough of his lawyer negotiating mojo to bring this back to the UN. Call for a cease-fire. Send in humanitarian aid to the sorry Syrian citizens. Somehow we need to create a third option so we can get off the horns of this dilemma.

For what it’s worth, here is what I just sent my Congressman and two Senators:

Syria: Don't do it.

I understand the President's point about enforcing international law, and Assad's use of chemical weapons is an abomination against humanity, but I see little the U.S. stands to gain from acting unilaterally. We didn't punish Saddam Hussein when he gassed his citizens, so we have precedent of doing nothing when it suits our needs (as distasteful as that is too).

Please push for more support from the international community (UN, Arab nations). Our ability to be a world leader is on the ropes and while punishing someone for using chemical weapons is something that should be done, I don't think we are in a good position to be the ones to do it. Not this time.

And here is what I posted on my Congressman’s Facebook page:

We take this action at our peril. The international world sees that we pick and choose when to enforce international law and when we don't. You cited Iraq's use of chemical weapons. Yes, it was reprehensible, yet, we looked the other way then. It looks like this train has left the station in our rush to support the president. But you have to know we are weary of this. We have unwittingly boxed ourselves into a corner and have created a false choice: Punish Assad, or let chemical weapons proliferate. Why not go back to the UN and lobby hard for more support. Sure Russia and China will block action against Syria. So let them and let them take the fall in the international community for letting atrocities continue. (Registered Democrat (for now) and voted for Obama twice).

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