Why I Support A Strike in Syria (And Why I Do Not)

This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing!
William T. Sherman, December 1860

Chemical weapons first saw widespread use in World War I, but were quickly outlawed by the Geneva Protocols in 1925.  Almost 200 nations around the world have signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 (Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction) prohibiting the manufacture and use of chemical weapons.  Syria is not among them.

It is now clear that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against their own people in August 2013.

There are some things you can never take back.  The use of chemical weapons is one of the very few things aside from the use of nuclear weapons that is very clearly beyond the bounds of civilized nations.  It is a clear line in the sand, a singular violation of the rule of law, which is why I believe a military strike against the Syrian government is warranted.

Yet I have a difficult time supporting the Obama Administration’s proposals to initiate military action in Syria.  It’s a matter of trust, particularly lack of trust, in both parties in Washington, DC.

I understand and respect principled opponents of military action.  I don’t agree, but I respect a consistent position.  I don’t understand nor respect fair-weather fans—both those who stood with George Bush going into Iraq, but suddenly are against the idea just because there’s a ‘D’ in the White House instead of an ‘R’, as well as those who rallied against W ten years ago but now suddenly support O just because he’s one of their own.  Pathetic.

I supported action in Iraq, hesitantly, and I hesitate for the same reasons now.  Both proposals called for essentially police actions to address limited objectives.  A rogue dictator broke the rules, and the rule of law demands punishment.  Fine, but America doesn’t do police actions very well.  Can you say “Vietnam”? Can you say “Benghazi”?  Can you say “No Clear Objectives”?

We have no clear objectives in the Syrian conflict, beyond a vague notion of retribution.  We have no clear idea that the rebels are any “better” than those in power.  We have no clear and present danger to American interests, beyond the theoretical rule of law to enforce a treaty to which the Syrian people never agreed (or more properly, were never allowed to agree).

War is a serious business.  If you’re going to point a gun at a man, you damn well better be prepared to kill him or be killed yourself.  That is not an enterprise to be entered into lightly.  I am not a military theorist, but I do believe if you’re going to do something, you better do it right the first time.  Limited military action quickly becomes expanded military action, or it becomes failure.

Do it right, or don’t do it at all.


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