Even limited US attack on Syria is a mistake

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The outcome of wars can’t be predicted.

So President Obama and Congress are fooling themselves and the American people if they believe limited military action against Syria can be used to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad from further using chemical weapons against his own people.

Without a doubt, Assad’s suspected use of chemicals weapons to kill 1,429 Syrians — including more than 400 children — is an atrocity. U.S. officials say the evidence is strong that the Assad regime is responsible for the horror.

But what would a limited strike on Syria accomplish?

Assad, as demonstrated by his actions, is a madman. His response to an attack will not necessarily be rational. Hitting Syria is like swatting a hornets’ nest (with chemical weapons).

The limited scope of any attack also hampers the success of a military strike. If Assad knows how far the U.S. is willing to go he will likely be more prepared to weather the assault.

Limited military action is a mistake. The U.S. should have learned that lesson from Vietnam and now, Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the U.S. went into Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, government officials were confident it would be a fast, easy war.

Two years later the U.S. went after Saddam Hussein in Iraq with its “shock and awe” bombing followed by ground troopers. Again, a short, easy invasion was predicted.

U.S. troops would be safely back home as soon as Afghanistan and Iraq were stabilized. That didn’t happen. It’s been 12 years since the invasion of Afghanistan and decade since U.S. troops went into Iraq.

The U.S. currently has 63,000 troops in Afghanistan (although the hope is most will be home in 2014). To date, 2,270 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the Afghanistan campaign, which was dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom.

After 10 years of war, most of the troops have finally come home from Iraq — but not without a high price. Almost 4,500 U.S. troops have died.

Neither Iraq or Afghanistan is truly stable.

Yet, here we go again. Congress is considering giving the nod to a limited attack if no American “boots are on the ground.”

That simply cannot be guaranteed. Nothing can be guaranteed.

Any action against Syria should come from an international coalition. The costs of war must be spread equally, from troops to funding. A truly united coalition has the greatest likelihood of success.

To this point, the rest of the world’s contribution seems to be — at best — cheerleaders.

The United States is war weary. It’s military is stretched thin and its treasury is thinner.

It is a mistake for the U.S. to go to war with Syria.

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Comments

NewInWW says...

I agree completely, and urge everyone else who agrees to contact our two senators and our representative to express your opposition to a military strike against Syria. If the world has drawn a redline, let the world enforce it.

Patty Murray - http://www.murray.senate.gov/public/i...
Maria Cantwell - http://www.cantwell.senate.gov/public...
Cathy Rodgers - https://mcmorrisforms.house.gov/write...

Posted 4 September 2013, 4:17 p.m. Suggest removal

Igor says...

I agree. Absent an international coalition we should stay out. But we wouldn't be in this position but for Obama's "redline remarks." The whole thing has been horribly mismanaged by Obama. But then what else is new?

Posted 4 September 2013, 7:07 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

You won't appreciate my agreement, but I already did write Murray and Cantwell, two days ago, making these points:

1. There's really no such thing as a war in which you can control how hard you fight and when you'll be able to get out. Believing that about a war is a sign of such naivete it should disqualify the leader who proposes it. Bush was not a great war leader, but at least he wasn't that stupid.

2. Syria poses no imminent danger to the U.S. or its interests. Assad is a monster, but he's not our monster, like Saddam was (given the ceasefire terms after Gulf I). International treaties are broken every day (literally - every single day of the year) - and there needs to be a better reason for us to engage.

3. Obama is entirely non-credible as a war leader. There's nothing he can say about the need to attack Assad today that does not contradict virtually word for word what he said about the need to attack Saddam and Iraq in 2002.

4. You don't go to war to "send a message" to your enemy. That makes no sense, because if you go to war, your goal should be for your enemy to be too dead to hear any message. You don't go to war to "send messages" but to kill. Obama is not prepared to do that.

5. The American people do not have the stomach for this. It's possible (but not certain) that they could if they had a capable leader, but they don't have one, so that's that.

On the other hand, very few of the Petulant Petunias (Russia, Germany, France, etc.), want us to do anything except join them in waving our hands around like orchestra conductors. That's a darn good reason to do the opposite. But not good enough.

Posted 4 September 2013, 10:57 p.m. Suggest removal

Igor says...

Well told PearlY! I could not agree more. War is only indicated when diplomatic means fail. Then the only objective should be to obliterate your enemy, not to "send a message." Name one "limited war" that has ever achieved much of anything. Obama is a fool.

Posted 5 September 2013, 9:49 p.m. Suggest removal

Kevconpat says...

Absolutely- NOT going into Syria is the right decision!
Maybe this should be a lesson for everyone saying : A Red Line in the Sand is when we go in. Go in for what? When a sick madman kills his own citizens and adds to it by nerve gas, do you really think a couple of missile strikes will wake him up!?
Ahhhh, Dah ...
No. It will only stoke his horrific ambitious zeal to squeeze tighter a hold of his country, no matter how many he massacres with bullets, rockets or nerve gas.
We need to STAY OUT!

Posted 4 September 2013, 9:56 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Aaaarrrgghh! Can't believe I'm on the same side as you and NewInWW on this.

Posted 4 September 2013, 11:02 p.m. Suggest removal

namvet60 says...

Media Matters reporting that Secretary of State John Kerry has contacted Hanoi Jane for possible rendezvoux for a photo shoot off Syrian coast. Just joking ------ or am I?

Posted 5 September 2013, 8:34 a.m. Suggest removal

Igor says...

I have no use for Kerry. Thank God for the Swift Boat Vets. He was 10 points ahead in the polls before the SBVs got on his case. I'm a Nam Vet and when I saw how he disgraced those of us that served he just made me wanna puke! Throwing his medals at the Wall? Accusing my brothers-in-arms of cutting of heads? What a despicable person! What do you think of his recent plastic surgery? What a miserable excuse for a human being!

Posted 5 September 2013, 9:58 p.m. Suggest removal

namvet60 says...

Sorry - I missed the plastic surgery. I thought maybe he had hurt himself yachting or wind surfing and was looking for another Purple Heart?

Posted 6 September 2013, 11:09 a.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

If you can't look to the United States to right the wrongs of evil, who can you look to? The use of chemical weapons is forbidden by the Geneva Convention and Assad is now a war criminal. I'm not a fan of the President, but don't envy the position he is in. I hope he makes the right call.

Posted 5 September 2013, 8:11 p.m. Suggest removal

namvet60 says...

ImJustSayin - 1. I wouldn't trust Kerry if he stated the world was round 2. This entire Administration can not come up with the same story line on the Syrian issue. One says one thing and then the next day you get a different story. In the hearings you had the Secretary of State along with the Secretary of Defense and the General for Joint chiefs of Staff and they couldn't agree on anything. In fact the General threw Kerry under the bus. 3. Is Syria a distraction for Iran? I don't see much difference in chemical weapons and getting sprayed with multiple nuclear bombs. Where is the discussion on Iran other than they are years off from having a nuclear bomb? Are we sure of that with the incompetence of this Administration?

Posted 6 September 2013, 11:06 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Interesting how this issue crosses party lines in this forum, just as it is doing in Congress. I'm with ImJustSayin on this one, if I read him correctly. Assad has thousands of tons of chemical weapons, and he won't hesitate to escalate using these on his people, unless the consequences for doing are great enough to change his cost/benefit analysis.

Also, whether you like the President or not (I happen to), we lose a lot of credibility if we don't follow through on enforcing standards we said we would enforce. It took courage for Obama to do the right thing and bring this before Congress so that the "people" would take ownership of these actions. Now the Congress should back the President enough to authorize limited strikes. No boots on the ground. No prolonged engagement. Just hit Assad somewhere where it hurts him.

Syria is a mess. 20 missiles won't fix that. But they might prevent a serious decline of international standards on the issue of chemical weapons use. Tough issue.

Posted 7 September 2013, 8:10 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

fatherof5, can you give me a source for the claim that Assad has "thousands of tons of chemical weapons". A source we should find credible, which would rule out any source that agreed Saddam had WMD and/or had used chemical weapons on Iraqis, wouldn't it?

The international conventions on chemical weapons, as far as I know, do not include any enforcement provisions. We have not therefore committed to "follow through on enforcing standards we said we would enforce." Granted, those standards, as most other international standards, are thereby rendered empty, but that's how it's always been. Besides, Obama isn't proposing to 'enforce' them now. Enforcement would require follow-through, up to and almost certainly including boots on the ground and a prolonged engagement. He's proposing to do nothing more than make a gesture, largely meaningless since it doesn't directly target Assad or put him in fear of losing either his life or his regime.

And can you explain how we can be sure that our strikes will have only the limited effect we want, of hitting Assad where it hurts him? Russia and Iran, to varying degrees, have threatened to aid Assad and/or retaliate against us or our interests. How can you be SURE that, or something like that, won't happen? If we take out some expensive military toys, who's to say Russia won't just replace them with newer models?

Usually, trying to get other people to take ownership of your actions isn't a sign of courage, but the opposite. In this case, it also happens to be constitutionally required, so I don't charge Obama with cowardice, but it's hardly a courageous stance.

It is indeed a tough issue. I'd hate to have even the most competent, experienced and wise President have to deal with it.

Posted 7 September 2013, 5:32 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

PearlY, I heard the figure yesterday on NPR in a discussion between David Brooks and Mark Shields. As you know, one thousand tons is 2 million pounds, which is a heck of a lot. I was surprised to hear such a high figure, but it came from what I deemed to be a credible source.

Recent precedent (see Reagan, Clinton, Obama) shows presidents bombing other countries without congressional approval. Obama could have just gone this route and was firmly convinced a military response was warranted. His credibility and that of the U.S. is on the line. That would have been easy. But instead he took a step back and decided to do it the right way with the backing of the people. That's the tougher road, especially with a Congress that would vote against their own ideas if they thought it might hurt Obama.

As for being "sure" this will have the desired effect, we can't. It's a calculated risk, just as doing nothing is a calculated risk.

As for your 2nd paragraph, you are playing with semantics, so I'm not going to respond to that.

Here's a Breitbart article showing the tonnage claim for chemical weapons. You can't get more credible than Andrew Breitbart. :) http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/20...

Posted 7 September 2013, 5:59 p.m. Suggest removal

namvet60 says...

fatherof5 - that's funny - semantics and Breitbart right up your alley :)

Posted 9 September 2013, 10:16 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Look, it would be irrational for anybody to find the US credible on issues of war after Vietnam, and the lack of sustained two-party support for Iraq, and eventually even for Afghanistan, sealed the coffin on credibility.

The lack of any enforcement mechanism for the conventions on checmical weapons is not a semantic issue. You are pretending we are under some sort of duty to enforce them. That's simply not true.

I couldn't find the NPR discussion you mentioned. As far as I know, ALL of the claims as to Syria's tonnage are based solely on one French intelligence report. I've read it and, although admittedly French is not my strongest language and maybe some nuances escaped me, there's really nothing in it that allows anybody to assess the strength of the intelligence on which it's based. (I'm speaking only of the part about Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, not the part about the actual attack and its casualties. That second part seems pretty well documented.) And by the way, the report does not speak of "thousands" of tons, but of "several hundred" tons each (including precursors) of two types and "several dozen" tons of a third. Semantics, again, I guess.

Posted 9 September 2013, 1:32 p.m. Suggest removal

VinoTinto says...

So Pearl, if you're standing in a pool of gasoline and you light a match, does it matter if you have a whole book of matches or just one? Thought so!

Posted 9 September 2013, 1:38 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

You make a very good point, Vino. Obama is standing in a pool of gasoline and telling us he's only going to use one match, and a small one at that. As Kerry said today, the attack will be "unbelievably small." (And that must surely have Assad shaking in his boots.)

When it comes to the tonnage, yes, the amount does matter only because threat exaggeration has no place in a debate about war. Surely you must have thought that in respect to Iraq? That's not to say that any amount of sarin or VX in the hands of Assad (or Saddam or Kim or Khamenei) is a pleasant thing to contemplate.

Posted 9 September 2013, 9:25 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Russia and the U.S. agreed to 1,000 tons of chemical weapons. I overstated it as "thousands of tons." I was wrong ....... and it changes nothing.

Posted 14 September 2013, 6:35 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

I raise three points and toss in an aside, and you respond only to the aside?

Posted 15 September 2013, 6:42 a.m. Suggest removal

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