After it was reported that Assad had used chemical weapons against rebels in the ongoing civil war in Syria, the U.S. government is building a case for military strikes in the country. This will not be easy since the American public overwhelmingly reject military action in Syria. A Reuters-Ipsos poll last week found that only 9% of Americans support U.S. intervention in the country. 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has left many Americans skeptical of the intelligence community and the information they receive from the government. Any U.S. military intervention in Syria should be carefully discussed and transparent to the American public. There are many unresolved questions that need answered before moving forward and committing American resources and troops to harms way.
One such question that remains unanswered is who committed the attack? Washington says it is clear that Assad and his military coordinated and authorized the attack. Media outlets are reporting an intercepted phone call as proof of the regimes involvement, but Bloomberg speculated that Maher al-Assad, the younger brother of the president and commander of the regime’s Republican Guard, may have committed a rogue act without his brothers approval. The tone of the call was reported to be panicked and an unknown intelligence official familiar with the attack was quoted as saying, ” We don’t know exactly why it happened, We just know it was pretty f—— stupid.” when speaking about the attack. The phone call does not give any insight into why the attack happened or who authorized it. The same intelligence official admits that, ” It’s unclear where control lies,” in an interview with The Cable .
Russia has denied involvement of the Assad regime and instead suggested the rebels were to blame for the attack. Syrian State T.V. reported “government soldiers found chemical agents in rebel tunnels on Saturday and some of the troops were suffocating.” In an interview with NPR , George Lopez, a professor of peace studies at the University of Norte Dame, stated the “rebels have the motivation to use chemical weapons”, but emphasized that “the rebels would have had a large clash with Assad’s forces to overrun a storage facility and capture some shells.”
The only way to rule out any rebel involvement is to allow the U.N. investigators to finish their investigation and report their findings. This will take time but will give the U.S. credibility in their willingness to respond with military action. If the U.S. and their western allies move too quickly they could endanger Israel and inflame an already intense situation.
As the Obama administration continues to make their case to the public, details of missile strikes and speculated time tables continue to be reported. Fox news reported than plans for a response include long range cruise missiles. Tomahawk missiles are extremely accurate and extremely expensive. With a price tag of $1.1 million each, the administration cannot afford to be wrong. Cost benefit analysis should be a factor in deciding what steps are taken. The administration has already stated publicly that the intention is not to remove Assad from power. At a time when schools are facing budget cuts due to republican outrage over deficits, one has to ask if bombs are more important than education. Any action in Syria will only increase the current deficit while yielding nothing more than “proportionate response”.
The Obama administration continues to state publicly that, ” a final decision has not been made on the U.S. response,” but pressure is mounting on Obama to act. John McCain, a GOP Senator and former prisoner of war, is openly critical of the president and is urging consultation and action by the president. Senator McCain is advocating for use of force but “there is no way to surgically strike Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile without boots on the ground,” according to a source quoted by Fox news.
Without the ability to strike chemical weapons stockpiles with cruise missiles, the response should be seen for what it is, a senseless show of force that is going to waste billions of dollars America does not currently have. It risks further entanglement in a region Americans have been in for 12 years with nothing accomplished. A strike in Syria accomplishes nothing but does put allies in the region in danger. The appropriate response at this time is to continue to engage the Arab League and ask for their cooperation in an appropriate response.
Too many unanswered questions remain to act with force. The American public is clear that they do not support action in Syria. The administration should continue to allow the U.N. inspectors to collect evidence and build the case against those responsible in this attack. There is no reason to get ‘trigger happy’ before exhausting all other options. The United States and their allies need to continue to gather the evidence to force the U.N. security council to act.
Who was responsible? What does an attack accomplish? How much is the cost? Is there a clear majority opinion to respond? Does the Arab league support the actions proposed? These are all questions that must be answered before we decide to attack a sovereign nation in support of ‘rebels’ that have questionable ties to ‘enemies’ we’ve been fighting for 12 years.
The last question that should be answered is a simple one. What harm is there in taking the time to to get things right by waiting on the analysis of the evidence? Will things be any different if the strike is tomorrow or 10 days from now?
“Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t.”
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