How I Would Vote on Syria

 Posted by at 12:40 am  Editorial, Politics
Sep 062013

TCCCTo a large extent, I’ve been talking about Syria in both pros and cons, but have not committed myself one way or the other.  That is because, I consider the issue far too important for a knee-jerk response, a practice that has been all too common across the political spectrum.  I have carefully considered both sides of the issue and am now prepared to take a position, with the caveat that I have no disrespect for those who choose the opposite position, as long as they did their homework before doing so.

It is wrong to conflate Syria with Iraq and Afghanistan.  We entered Afghanistan as a Republican attempt to wrest control of the Caucuses gas fields from Gazprom, the Russian natural gas company, by running a pipeline from the Caspian Sea, through Afghanistan, to Karachi, Pakistan. Bush even installed a pipeline expert working for Unocal, Hamid Karzai, as Afghanistan’s puppet President.  We entered Iraq as a Republican attempt to carve up their oil fields for Big Oil and establish a major military base outside of Saudi Arabia.  Both of these incursions were intended as conquests.  Both were carried out with Republican levels of competence.  Both failed.  This is not the case with Syria, in which the action  is intended to be short-term airstrikes only, with no boots on the ground.

The intelligence appears valid, as even most opponents agree.  Among the few who do not are Putin, WND, and Rusk Limbarf.  When those three agree, you can be virtually certain that the opposite is true.

Ideally, the attack is intended to do so much damage to Assad’s chemical weapons capability, that it will seriously degrade his ability to use them, and to take out so much of his command and control infrastructure, that he will fear our response should he use them again.  If it works, it could save a lot of Syrian lives, and lives in other countries where leaders may consider using chemical weapons.

Here’s the rub.  Now that Obama has announced his intentions, Assad has dispersed his chemical weapons and delivery systems into heavily populated areas, making them more difficult to destroy and increasing the collateral damage of any attempt to destroy them.  Obama would have been better served to get authorization from Congress in secret and attack without prior publicity.  Regardless, civilian casualties are likely to be high.

Another downside is that, if we bomb Syria, and Assad turns around and uses chemical weapons again, then what?  We are forced to either escalate or appear impotent.  That’s a lose-lose scenario.

I have tried to weigh the upsides and downsides to determine which way would save more lives.  In the final analysis, I just don’t know.  I  tend to distrust anyone who claims to know, because, in the fog of war, the best of plans become instant chaos.

So, which ever option I choose, it is as likely that I will be wrong, as it is that I will be right.  Given a situation, where I can so easily be wrong, that if I am, I choose to err on the side of peace.  I would vote No.


  33 Responses to “How I Would Vote on Syria”

  1. In a Care2 post "5 Things You Should Know About Chemical Weapons" , the following is the final line:

    "Is launching military action against Syria the best way to respond to their use?'

    I certainly am not convinced that military action is the best deterrent to the use of chemical weapons. But I am also not sure what would be a deterrent. One presumes that those using the gas have basic morals, can see the difference between right and wrong. But then one also presumes that those warring against their own people also know the difference between right and wrong.

    I am afraid that until there is no financial profit in war, until there is no "power" profit in war, there will be no peace. I am also convinced that were world leaders on the front line, were their families also in harms way, there would be a greater reluctance to go to war.

    I know Al-Assad is in Damascus as he was recently pictured out meeting troops in the city.  But where does he return at night?  To a comfortable "bunker" with a bed and clean sheets?  To a "bunker" where he gets 3 chef prepared meals a day and drinks wine with his meals?  I wonder where Al-Assad's children and wife are living? Safely in Britain?

    Also from the same article:

    It is clear that chemical weapons are ghastly tools of war, but they aren’t Syria’s worst problem. According to experts, at least 100,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict began, and another 2 million are currently refugees. Of those who’ve died, just about 1,500 may have died as a result of chemical weapons.

    Looking at the situation in what some would say a rather dispassionate way, since the weapons have been moved into population centres, even a surgical strike will kill many hundreds or thousands of civilians.  How many?  Of course that can't be determined before a strike.  But not just that, the deaths would be from explosions as well as gas released as a result of the bombings.  Are the lives of the almost 100,000 killed so far in conventional fighting any less important than the 1,500 kill by chemical weapons?

  2. If Pres. Obama had bombed Syria with surgical strikes and destroyed the chemical weapons when it was first discovered, he would have been accused of "acting like a king". It was probably why he chose to ask Congress. Unfortunately, they can't keep their mouths shut on the Hill and it was highly publicized and debated by the political pundits and everyone with an opinion. Assad knew the proposed plans and dispersed his weapons. Now it seems the only solution is a peaceful one. With Russia, Iran and China backing him, it is unlikely to happen.

    He will not stop destroying his own people with the help of others.

  3. I must say i have been thinking about this myself. It is almost just like the Prssident Obama you are darn if you do and darn if you don't with the exception when you are president you must mantain some integrity which President Obama has. But president Bush didn't and doesn't have any. Now we have a country that uses weapons of mass destruction on it's on people and we as americans are so
    emotional and so cold to allow this to happen with out a second thought. Just like in what 2002? when we were attacked with 9/11. Again we as americans allowed Bush/Cheney to lie lie lie lie and why we we so emotional. I do understand why. But we can not let the scars of the Bush yrs to dictate how we go forward or we will instead go backward. So i will stand with what ever President Obama does  Oh by the way the ones who lied need to shutup we do not what to hear them now or in the future.

  4. I love the conflicts that occur with both parties, especially the Republican party here.    The Republicans have those who always are in favor of military action, those who are always opposed to anything Obama, and some who believe in the Constitution.   This may strengthen that last group at the expense of the first two, at least I hope so.

    • Howard, I agree except foe one thing.  You mentioned Repulicans who believe in the Constitution.  Isn't that the same list as the one of Muslim Popes?

  5. It's very sad for the citizens of Syria but, I think the costs are just too high for a stike of any kind. Efforts might be better served helping the people escape and survive. sigh

  6. I always enjoy Steve Coll's contributions to The New Yorker – and this week he addresses the conundrum that Syria presents to Pres. Obama.  It doesn't provide a "Yea" or "Nay" – just some sound thoughts.

    Saddam saw great value in chemical arms during the nineteen-eighties, and his twisted logic bears examination in the light of Syria’s deteriorating conflict. Saddam first used gas bombs to thwart Iran’s zealous swarms of “human wave” infantry….  The Reagan Administration’s decision to tolerate Saddam’s depravities proved to be a colossal moral failure and strategic mistake; it encouraged Saddam’s aggression and internal repression, and it allowed Iraq to demonstrate to future dictators the tactical value of chemical warfare.


    International laws and informal warnings of retaliation are designed to dissuade dictators and terrorists from using weapons of mass destruction under any circumstances. A failure to enforce such norms in Syria would likely lower the threshold for chemical use in this and future wars. Obama’s deliberateness about military action in Syria is understandable….

    In Iraq, starting in 2006, Chemical Ali went on trial for mass murder and other crimes against humanity….  He was hanged in 2010. The prospect of even such rough justice for Syria’s chemical bombers looks elusive. Yet Obama’s original instincts were sound. There are red lines even in a war as devoid of clarity as Syria’s. The best available evidence is that on August 21st Bashar al-Assad’s forces crossed to the other side.

  7. This situation is like a dounle edge sword. My guess is that it might be wise to wait for  this big bruhahha. level  off and deal with the situation  much like the way the Bin Laden situation was handled. Too much publicity makes no sense. Those guys are not just going to sit around waitingto be wiped out. I happen to trust Obama when it comes to reaching for the right solution.


  8. I vote NO!  A bomb is just another form of chemical weapon.  It kills people and creates terrorists out of the survivors…and makes us as bad or worse than the terrorists.

  9. In a "Civil War" like Syria, I think the people involved should be the ONLY ones using weapons of Any kind. The people are the only ones at risk, the only ones with anything to gain or lose, and it's their freakin' country! I just wish independent nations would allow their own people to Decide how they're to be governed. I vote NO, Hell NO..because I don't believe most of the "intelligence" pushed on the President, I don't believe America should keep interfering in other countries' "personal problems", and we have Enough "
    personal Problems" of our Own!

    I would however, vote to bomb Wall $treet – just because… jack-boots on the ground optional, pot-smoke to clear the buildings First (or last..what-ever)..


  10. I vote no.  From all that I have read, it is not inthis country's best interest to intercede.  I feel sorry for the people of Syria, but I dont believe our intervention would help them.  I think Eva Cutler has a point, get rid of Assad the way they did Bin Laden.

  11. "Obama would have been better served to get authorization from Congress in secret and attack without prior publicity. " I agree!

    President Obama is taking the high ground. We have all sorts of international treaties and agreements that say we should act; not to mention our own (USA) position on this issue. We all know a free press has good and bad consequences. But, funny, no one wants to do it. The American people don't want to do it. The Republicans don't want to do it. The Democrats don't want to do it. England doesn't want to do it. The UN doesn't want to do it, etc., etc.. With the history of Vietnam and Iraq, the American people have every right to not trust their government's military decisions.

    WW II and the following Cold War,  made us the police of the world. And we blew it. We supported leadership in countries that torchered and murdered their people. We fought for material wealth, not to end oppression and murder by bad leaders. We backed terrorists to help us fight, and those same terrorists turned around killed more Americans than in Pearl Harbor. And on, and on, and on. 

     This one incident (as grotesqe as it is) will not drastically change the agression in Syria, whether we do anythin, or not. At this point; I think it's to late to do anything that would be effective. But we (USA and the rest of the free nations) have to decide if we are going to live up to our agreements; that were laid out as exactly how nations could behave in these most serious, violent situations. Any incident this deadly, is worthy of a reply. But international politics usually rule the decision to reply; not the incidiousness of the violent act. Seems the international poll says no. We cannot escape the future melt down coming in the Middle East, and we will end up, very involved.

  12. Basing my opinion on the time-honored adage that no military plan survives contact with the enemy, I vote no. Intervening in Syria's civil war will inevitably lead to our further military involvement; almost surely ending up with U.S. ground troops being committed.

    President Obama really has no viable choices here. As unconscionable as the use of chemical weapons is, intervention in Syria is not a case of the U.S striking a blow for the good guys by punishing the bad guys. As far as our rational national interests are concerned, both sides are the bad guys. The comment that air strikes against Assad's facilities would simply make us Al Quaeda's and/or Hezbollah's air force may have been uttered flippantly, but there is a lot of truth to it. Both sides hate us, as does most of the Middle East, because we have given them ample reasons to do so. Whatever action we might take at this time would most likely turn into a graphic demonstration of the law of unintended consequences.

    Absent a broad international agreement that some form of intervention is necessary, the best course of action for the U.S. is to stay out of it. 


  13. I certainly agree it is impossible to predict "what happens if" in a situation of this kind.  I tend to fall back on do I have any obligation?  Is there a treaty?  Per Alan Grayson, who does do his homework, the only treaty that could possibly apply here calls for us (and any signer) to refer violations to the International Court of the Hague.  So I think that is what we should do.  I know as a nation we don't have a great track record of respecting our own treaties, but I think we should start here.  It's about d**n time we did.

    • I have read the treaty, ans it's a bit more complex than that.  While the primary enforving bodies are the World Court and the UNSC, there is provision for multilateral action by the other signatories.

  14. Where was the roar when Saddam gassed the Kurds?

    McCain? Cheney? Rumsfeld? Fox? Limbaugh?

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