In a recent column, Dale Herspring called out Presi-dent Obama for drawing a “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons and then not following through with action.
“Unfortunately,” Herspring noted, “Obama’s refusal to follow-up on his threats dimin-ishes U.S. influence around the world.” A similar “red line” argument was recently posed by neoconservative flag-bearer William Kristol. In de-nouncing Mr. Obama as a president “who does not want to start another war,” Kristol stated, “(N)o one wants to start wars, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” Ten years ago Kristol advocated the over-throw of Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda’s staunchest Mid-east enemy. John McCain is also calling for the United States to intervene in Syria.
But definitive proof of chemical weapons use by Syrian President Bashar Assad is lacking. Col. Lawrence Wilker-son, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, reports that his sources in the intelligence community call evidence against Assad “really flaky.” Carla del Ponte, former Swiss Attorney General and current member of the Inde-pendent International Commis-sion of Inquiry on Syria, was even less equivocal: “(Sarin gas) was used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she said. Further, “At the moment only opponents of the regime have used sarin gas.”
We all remember how compliant politicians allowed themselves to be bamboozled into believing that Saddam had WMDs. On Syria, shouldn’t we demand a higher standard of proof than what has been provided thus far?
America has suffered tens of thousands of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan; our troops have endured multiple deploy-ments. The Harvard Kennedy School recently put the cost of future medical care for injured veterans at $1.7 trillion.
Can we suffer more? Abso-lutely. But there is no connection between Assad and al-Qaeda. In fact, Assad is fighting against al-Qaeda. Additionally, America already spends more on defense than China, Russia, India, Brazil, England, France, Japan, Ger-many, Italy and 196 other countries — combined. Yet the combined GDP of the nine named countries is twice that of America. Couldn’t our limited tax dollars be better spent here, rather than there?
One also has to wonder where the House and the Senate are in all of this. Article 1 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare War. Congress has asserted the War Powers clause before the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. But since World War II, the House and the Senate have avoided formally declaring war, instead opting for lesser declarations. Isn’t the decision to go to war worth formally debating and voting on?
The better course on Syria at present is that offered by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezin-ski. “It is an incredibly messy situation,” he states. “We know that some of them are Salafists who have the support of the Saudis. We know that groups from Iraq are involved, we know that the Kurds are involved, and we know that a significant number of Syrian refugees flee to Turkey. The point is that it is a com-prehensive mess in the context of which you are not in the position to make good choices. Simply plunging into the unknown would not be all that wise. And if we did it anyway, who would be on our side?”
Curt Loub, 217 Drake Drive, is a local attorney.