The United States has no business involving itself in the Syrian civil war. President Obama’s push for a military strike is the most recent example of a Middle Eastern foreign policy that lacks any clear sense of direction or purpose.
Consider his tenure in office. After declining to offer even a hint of moral support on behalf of organic popular uprisings against hostile regimes in Syria and Iran, the President chose to intervene in Libya and Egypt only to see secular regimes replaced by more radical Islamic ones.
Why would the President decline involvement in an organic Syrian democracy movement, only to intervene militarily just two years later in support of Al Qaeda militants?
The Obama Administration argues that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its citizens, but there is no strong consensus this assertion is true. The Russians and other sources claim the rebels are responsible.
If we accept the US intelligence assessment that the Assad regime deployed chemical weapons, does that justify military intervention?
At least three criteria must be considered:
1. Is there a vital national security interest of the United States of America at stake?
There is no discernible, direct threat posed to our country by Syria, and neither combatant is an ally.
Although the Assad regimes have been a state sponsor of terrorism for decades, seven out of nine rebel groups opposing the government are believed to have ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Many of those rebels are foreign fighters who have no stake in Syria. In short, there are virtually no ‘good guys’ in the Syrian conflict.
Furthermore, given our current fiscal inability to properly fund our military, involvement in yet another foreign conflict would actually harm national security by gutting our capacity to respond to vital threats elsewhere. It would also degrade morale and readiness among our uniformed personnel who have already been stretched to a breaking point by endless deployments.
Just a few short years ago, Barack Obama argued in clear, unequivocal terms that the United States should not act against Saddam Hussein in the absence of a direct and imminent threat to the United States, despite the fact that the dictator had admittedly used chemical weapons against his own people and engaged in atrocities on a scale that make the Assad regime pale by comparison.
2. If we determine a vital national security interest is at stake, have we identified a clear, obtainable military objective?
The Obama Administration has stated no clear military objective for a strike against Syria, much less an attainable one. The President’s vague doctrine of retributive justice, or deterrence articulated thus far is neither definable nor attainable.
Even if President Obama could identify such an objective, the task of attaining a favorable outcome appears impossible when none of the combatants is an ally nor shares our values. The United States has no good options in Syria.
Nevertheless, the New York Times reports that our Israeli friends now back a limited US military strike on the grounds that continued instability in Syria works to their benefit. But this may only be a temporary benefit. And there is an equally compelling case to be made that intervention could end in further destabilization and ultimately descend into a broader regional conflict.
Moreover, with Al Qaeda factions in the rebel opposition pledging to cleanse the land, the fallout from regime change could be devastating to Syria’s Christian community. Shamefully, this kind of persecution has been the result of US policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Egypt.
3. Has a military act-of-war been authorized by Congress?
While this criterion is last chronologically, it should be the first logical hurdle for any administration weighing possible military action. For now, it appears the President will not win congressional approval. If so, the people’s representatives will reflect the will of the American people, who by a vast majority oppose a military strike: a recent poll finds only 9 percent support such an action.
The Administration argues it has the constitutional authority for a military strike in Syria even without congressional approval. However in 2007, then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama stated, “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
With no vital national security interest at stake coupled with no attainable military objective, I would vote to oppose a military strike against Syria.