I have been assembling my thoughts on the question of attacking Syria. Not that I am a senator or a general, but you have to take time to weigh the facts on important matters. Otherwise, all you have is a “reaction.”
Points favoring the attack:
This missile strike on Syria would be to punish a regime for use of horrific weapons, weapons of atrocity, banned for almost a century. Theoretically it would also dissuade their use by other regimes in the future. Banning such ghastly weapons has been one of the few solid advances for civilized behavior we can point to. We should defend that advance in a muscular way that is hard to miss.
Discouraging the future use of chemical weapons advances civilization, and thus the interests of the American people. But at last I see no other point to be made for the Pro-Attack side. There are a couple of plausible rebuttals to some of the Anti-Attack points, but I see only this one point in favor of attacking.
Dramatic-sounding talk about America losing its credibility does not bear inspection. America regularly does all kinds of things that lose us credibility, far more than holding off on a missile strike would do.
People act like they don’t know the size and strength of the American military. It is credible! The Pentagon’s cost overruns alone amount to the third largest military budget on earth. China has one, count it, one aircraft carrier. Our losses or stalemates in war have been generally due to the hit-and-run guerrilla tactics of shadowy enemies like the Viet Cong or the Taliban. No standing government would challenge us militarily, only underground groups in hiding with bandanas wrapped around their heads. These are generally fanatics of such a mental state that they don’t fear death anyway. Extremists will fight on until they are dead, because they are programmed like robots to do so. A missile strike in Syria won’t dissuade those people in any way. And those are the people who actually pose a threat to our country, not a propped-up autocrat like Bashar Al-Assad, or Saddam Hussein before him.
Ironically, opposing Assad all-out, in every way apart from missile strikes, and not automatically defaulting to the military option, might actually be a boost to America’s standing around the world.
Points against the attack:
Syria poses zero threat to the United States, and our military power should be used only to stop attacks on the United States. A missile attack on Syria is not about defending the United States.
The promise or “guarantee” that this would last no longer than ninety days, and involve no American ground troops, is utterly empty. A missile strike means war, and we have no way of gauging how long that might last or how many soldiers it would require. This is at best a guarantee that the opening salvo of the war would last no more than ninety days. So what? Entry into war is entry into war. We have no stake in this one. Not that that has ever stopped us in the past, but this is not the past. Americans are less receptive of the idea of being someone’s cannon fodder these days.
I will acknowledge that we have launched some missile strikes that did not lead to wider wars. A wider war is not guaranteed. For that matter, the suppression of chemical weapons is not guaranteed by our missile strike.
We are not the policeman of the world. Too many times we have taken on that role for wars that were completely unnecessary, and only served the financial purposes of special interests. Hanging up the policeman’s badge does not preclude us from being an influence in the world. Far from it. We are hugely influential, and we should be. We have some excellent ideas going back to the Bill of Rights.
If there must be a military response, the Europeans and especially the Arabs should be dealing with it, not the youth of the United States. We all know that Europe and the Arabs will never get involved militarily in Syria, but it remains more their fight than ours, by geographic proximity if nothing else.
The Age of Empire should be declared dead. Civilized people should get imaginative, and seek to influence what happens in this world by all constructive steps possible. And they should never let it be forgotten that the governments of Russia and China are propping up that psychotic monstrosity in Damascus, along with the one in North Korea.