Friday, September 6, 2013

Just My 2 Cents on Syria

My colleague Shady Grady penned a post which details all of the many different factors at play in Syria and, trust me, there are a lot of different factors going on here.  Anybody who thinks this is an easy situation to deal with is not paying attention.  But rather than jump into the weeds on Syria's civil war, I just want to throw out my feelings on the entire situation as it relates to our involvement and the debate that's taking place in America right now.

First and foremost, I am not a fan of the idea of the United States taking any military action (limited or non-limited) in Syria.  And I say this for several reasons.  One, I do not recall the United States involving itself in the bloody and inhumane civil wars of Rwanda, Darfur or Sierra Leone, so it is difficult for me to buy into the narrative that an injustice has been committed in the world that requires a swift response from the U.S.  Where was that swift response when the Hutus were murdering, raping, maiming, and butchering over half a million Tutsis?  I'm sorry for the people of Syria who have died in this civil war, and I do not raise this point to downplay or diminish in any way the very real suffering that they are still going through as I type these words from the convenience of my safe environment.  Rather, I only raise this point because I can't get away from the glaring inconsistency that exists when the United States government picks and chooses which tragedies it will lift a finger for and which ones it will not.

Second, I am glad that President Obama brought this matter before Congress.  Congress' extremely low
approval rating and general lack of ability to agree on the time of day notwithstanding, the Constitution directs the commander-in-chief to seek approval from the people (aka, the Congress) before unilaterally launching a military attack.  Although you would never know this based on the past 60 years of American military actions.  Congress has not declared war since the Korean war in the 50's, yet since then we've had (i) Vietnam, (ii) Panama, (iii) Desert Storm, (iv) the Afghanistan War, (v) the Iraq War and not to mention all of the hundreds of small military and CIA operations that don't make the papers.  Based on this track record, one would have to conclude that the President is endowed with the power to order troops to do anything without Congressional approval, and, to be sure, the President, as commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces, is allowed to take some actions without Congressional approval.  Specifically, whenever the U.S. or its allies are attacked the President is allowed to act immediately.  Plus there was the passing of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Act after 9/11 that allows the President to basically launch drone strikes and other military excursions ad infinitum so long as they're sort of related to the people who helped plan 9/11.  All of that being said, I'm not happy that we're even talking about war, but if we're going to talk about it I'm happy that we're at least letting the American people weigh in on it via their elected representatives.

Lastly, I worry that U.S. military action here might cause ripples that will come back to bite us in the end.  When you look back at our previous military action in this region, the United States does not have a great track record.  We basically invade Iraq without just cause and convinced the world that there were weapons of mass destruction when there weren't.  We gave military weapons to the Afghans to help them fight the Russians during "Charlie Wilson's War" and then a decade or so later we're the ones that the Afghan's are using those weapons on when we invaded their country after 9/11.  Heck, even before that Ronald Reagan supplied weapons to Iran in the 1980's during the Iran-Contra affair, and now Iran is one of the biggest threats that we face today -- oh and by the way, they're allies with Syria and have stated that they will retaliate against the U.S. if we attack their ally.  I mean, you couldn't make this stuff up.  One minute we're funding these nations, the next minute we're invading them.  One minute we're slipping them AK's and bazookas under the table, the next minute they're using those weapons on our troops.  Usually a child is able to learn at a young age that when they put their hand on a hot stove that they probably should not do that again.  This is a basic lesson in life that the United States does not seem to have grasped over the past 3 decades of interfering with the middle east.  Yes, I understand the oil industry has deep ties in the middle east region, but does that mean we have to constantly involve and over-involve ourselves in middle eastern affairs at every opportunity?  And Syria, for the record, is not even in the top 30 oil-producing nations in the world - so what are we even doing here?  I don't have a crystal ball, but I see bad things coming from this.  We might be giving other nations in the area who hate us (Russia, Iran, just to name a few) the excuse they've been looking for in order to ramp up their efforts to finally say "enough is enough" when it comes to the United States' presence in the middle east.

Again, these are just some of the thoughts bouncing around in my head as I think about what this military action means for us exactly.

What are your thoughts?
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