There are two groups of comparable stupidity that stick out among those who oppose US military action in Syria. The first is conservative know-nothings who seem to be imitating liberal opposition to the Iraq War in the latter years of Bush’s presidency. The reason: Bush was a Republican. The second consists of libertarian coneheads who wouldn’t think about disregarding Syria’s sovereign right to gas children.
They wouldn’t justify US military action against another country unless Mexican foot soldiers invaded San Diego and burned Ludwig von Mises in effigy.
I haven’t much tolerance for either group, but partisanship is incurable so far as I’m concerned. As for Syria’s right to do whatever it pleases inside its borders: it’s a cruel, stupid point that many would stop making if they took that argument to its logical conclusion. Why do local municipalities have a problem when children who attend their schools show up with bruises and broken bones? After all, it’s none of their business since the abuse happened within the sovereign walls of a family’s home.
What would the argument have sounded like in 1939? Mr. Hitler, so long as you don’t land troops on the shores of Long Island, you can keep your little camps, or whatever you call them.
For years, the anti-war right has crowed about how the only instances deserving of government interference are those where other people are harmed. We now know that was posturing to hide the fact that they’re just giant pussies.
And then there are the respectable arguments, however unconvincing:
We can’t get involved in another Middle East war. Ok, but let’s not confuse terminology. We won’t be putting boots on the ground and storming Aleppo. A strike targeted directly at Assad or a bombing of chemical weapons stockpile is hardly Iraq or Afghanistan.
We need more evidence before acting. We’ve already waited too long. With the State Department, the UK, and the Arab League conclusively blaming Assad for the attack, and Israel and France noting the existence of his stockpiles, if you aren’t convinced, you never will be.
We’d be arming terrorists. It’s a grand myth that the choices in this war are either the Syrian government or the Al-Qaeda-backed Al Nusra. The Free Syrian Army is among the moderate rebels we should be arming and training. Yes, they both oppose the Syrian government, but, then again, so do I. Who wants to make the case that the rebel forces are actually writers from this blog? Saudi Arabia has had great success in the south with their trained rebels, combating Al Qaeda in and around Damascus. Imagine what they could do if they weren’t being gassed.
To make the case for intervention stronger, our national security interests are clear. We want to stop chemical weapons from being used, or falling into the hands of terrorists who could use them against us — think the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack on a much larger scale. We want to oust the regime that is endangering Israel and Jordan, which offers Israel a quiet border and is in danger of falling into instability. And we want to sever the puppet strings that Iran and Hezbollah have in Syria.
To accomplish these we need to nab Assad. And if we can’t take him alive to try in international court, then he should be killed. The illegal weapons must be destroyed and left for no one. Syrian forces can be crippled by taking out the runways of their air force bases, which also means they can no longer bomb their own people or accept help from Russia and Iran. The rebels need to be armed and trained to be victorious against both Al Nusra and Assad. And with Assad’s runways dysfunctional and no outside help, the chance of a rebel victory is good.
This isn’t an argument for a US occupation of Syria or an indiscriminate bombing campaign executed to make a political point of our disapproval of chemical weapons (we need Reagan in Libya, not Clinton in Iraq). This is about concrete national security interests and achievable solutions.
It’s time we consider these arguments quickly and make the right choice before this becomes a lesson in the need to act more decisively — or less stupidly — when presented with the next actual threat.