The United States is quickly approaching the moment when some kind of military strikes will be launched against Syria. A resolution put before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that authorizes the use of force for up to 90 days was passed 10-7 on Wednesday, and a vote in the full Senate is expected this week.
The lessons of the last 12 years of conflict in the Middle East, particularly those from Iraq, have apparently been ignored by U.S. politicians. There has been no independent verification that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad perpetrated the chemical weapon attacks of Aug. 21 that have goaded the U.S. into action. There is also not a cogent argument that strikes by the U.S. are the necessary or adequate response to such an attack if, as is likely, the Assad government carried them out. The U.S. response to the atrocities committed by both the Assad regime and the rebels has, for the past two years of the conflict, been little more than lip service to “international norms” and “red lines” that the same global community has been unwilling to enforce. Now we are pondering military strikes whose goal is as vague as limiting the Syrian government’s ability to carry out more attacks and turn the tide of the civil war in favor of the rebels.
Members of the Free Syrian Army, the main rebel group that has been battling the Assad regime for the past two years, have requested anti-air and anti-tank weaponry from the U.S., the world’s most prolific arms dealer, since very early on in the conflict, but there has been little talk of the rebels asking for much more than that. They have seen the state of both Afghanistan and Iraq and they recognize that U.S. intervention will likely produce similar results in Syria. We should heed their interests and provide them with arms, rather than allowing ourselves to be drawn into a conflict that doesn’t serve our interests.
The U.S. has a responsibility to denounce the use of chemical weapons, just as it has a responsibility to denounce oppressive regimes across the globe. But we should not get involved in another war in the Middle East without international support and clear-cut objectives. The men and women of our armed forces and the taxpayers who will finance the conflict deserve better.