The United States response to the Syrian government’s use of nerve gas on its own people is complex. Some say we should attack with enough air asset forces to topple the regime. Still others want to take out their air force to ensure rebel victory. Others want the government to stay out of it either because it is not in our national interest or because we are not sure who we are supporting in the rebel camps.
Our government appears to be considering one to three days of air strikes either by cruise missiles or our air force or by a combination of both. They appear to be leaning toward making a statement to Syria and the rest of the world there are consequences for using nerve gas. Although plans are not yet known, there appears to be some government talk of attacking several strategic sites as a lesson.
The problem comes from the unintended consequences over our actions. Given, Syria is run by a regime that is corrupt and has no respect for human life, especially its citizens. However, the rebels, two years into the fray, are now joined by many factions. The Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda are two groups fighting on the rebel side. Are we arming the people who will turn this state into an Islamic Republic run by extremists who are anti- western civilization? Can the weapons we give them be used against us to take down our commercial jets instead of the Syrian Air Force? Will the takeover by these extreme groups allow chemical weapons to fall into the hands of Al Qaeda? Some say it can never happen. The rebels want a secular free state. Tell that to the People of Egypt who live in chaos as they try to shake off the shackles of the Muslim Brotherhood legally elected by the people. Another issue is the Anti- Aircraft batteries in Syria. They are manned by Russian soldiers. We will have to engage them to do an air attack. How will the Russians respond to our killing their soldiers?
Others say the US should do something after over 2,000 men women and children were killed in the gas attack. There are already over 100,000 dead as a result of the Civil War. The US said it would have a “red line” if chemical weapons were used. Months ago over 200 people were killed by a gas attack and we did nothing. What makes the 2,000 lives lost this time more valuable than the 100,000+ previously lost in the two year conflict? Other African nations have has similar issues and even worse horrors to their citizens, yet we did nothing. What makes this different?
People are saying we will lose both face and credibility in the world. The fact is the World has already lost faith and confidence with President Obama’s Administration. We have become a nation of words, threats and “leading from behind”. A one to three day limited attack could have consequences that include attacks on Israel, possible terror attacks on US interests etc. After the attacks, if they happen, the Regime will still be in charge, and our Allies will continue to question our commitment to them.
Let us consider the internal consequences for the limited US action. The American people, by multiple polls, have no desire to get involved in Syria. Polls indicate as little as 10% of the people support military action in Syria. I do not see this President doing what is necessary to get that support. In the past Presidents have gone on television and directly spoke to the American People explaining why they are taking the actions they authorized. There are no indications he is going to do that so there appears no attempt to win the Nations support. He has not asked for Congressional approval of the actions. He just offered a briefing on what he has planned.
Military action in Syria is indeed complex. Couple that with an inconsistent policy on the Middle East and you have a recipe for disaster. Based on all of the above, I believe we should do nothing and allow the United Nation to handle the problem. Whatever we appear to be planning, it is little more than a gesture which will have little effect on the Region and the World. It will embolden our enemies to our weakened resolve and put doubts in our friends as to our ability to keep our commitments.
Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something- especially if that something is too little too late!!!