Saturday, September 7, 2013

Middle East, Madmen, Missiles, and Missions


Syria…what to do about Syria.

As the debate rages, opinions, perspectives, ideas, and arguments are flying for and against action.  It comes down to quite a few talking points I have tried to summarize as best as possible:

1)      There is insufficient proof that Assad used chemical weapons.  After the Iraq ginned-up debacle, Americans are naturally more skeptical of their government and the world is a lot more untrusting of American claims.

2)      We haven’t exhausted all diplomatic solutions.  How do you know when more talking is frivolous?  If you believe President Obama is a ‘reluctant warrior’, has he not reached the point that further discussion is pointless? 

3)      We shouldn’t go it alone.  If neither NATO nor the UN have called for military action, then why should America be the military course of last resort?

4)      It’s a Muslim thing.  The Shia/Sunni divide goes back centuries and every time we insert ourselves into the mix we end up the bad guy.

5)      It’s the end of the post imperial era. First Lebanon, then Iraq, and now Syria are simply returning to their pre-colonial tribal states.  Like much of the Middle East and North Africa, we are seeing a reset based on ethnic and religious sects and it will be long and messy with or without or intervention.

6)      It’s about oil.  Well not really.  Syria is not a major oil player, but rest assured the consumers (us), the producers (OPEC), and the middle men (U.S. refiners) will be impacted by any action.

7)      The anti-FDR, fear of reprisals.  What if Syrian, Iranian or their proxies attack U.S. institutions in response. 

8)      What’s the mission?  Is it simply to bloody Assad’s nose or is it about regime change?

9)      And then what? Will 72 hours of bombing really matter?  Those against a ‘limited attack’ claim it is just a preamble to a wider scale invasion.

10)   The price of inaction. If we don’t act, we are sending a signal that dictators and despots are free to murder and oppress their people via the worse means without recrimination.

11)   False equivalencies.  This will end up just like Iraq or it is just like Kosovo.  Neither are applicable as comparing the Syrian situation to either of those interventions is simplistic.

12)   The devil you know.  The fact is, in the short term, as history point out, dictators maintain control at the expense of freedom or liberty.  Once they are toppled, chaos, civil war, sectarian violence, and anarchy ensue.

13)   American principles call for us to act.  Doesn’t America stand up for the little guy and defend liberty and freedom everywhere?  Are we not the shining light?

14)   Is it in our nation interests?  Are we safer, freer and more secure if we act?

15)   The American people oppose action.  The American people also oppose taxes and I bet 90% couldn’t find Syria on a map.  We are not a democracy, we are a republic and how people feel is between a Congressman and Senator and their constituents.

16)   How do we pay for this mission when we have such high debt and so many homeless, hungry, and unemployed here in America?

17)   We should just arm the rebels.  Which rebels?  The secular Christian rebels are the ‘bad rebels’ but we have the stronger Sunni Al-Qaeda ‘bad rebels’.  If Assad should go, the real battle will start and the weapons we supply today will be used against us tomorrow.

18)   We should focus on the humanitarian crisis, not military action.  There are millions of refugees in Jordan and Turkey in make shift camps, that’s where our aid needs to go.

19)   If we don’t act we look weak and our ‘friends’ and enemies won’t respect us.

20)   Assad used Sarin gas and that means he has indeed crossed an international and humanitarian redline, but is that really worse than the 100,000 killed conventionally?

21)   We need to save Israel versus why are we always fighting Israel’s war.  Fact is Israel has and will take care of itself.

The above list is a as shallow as it is wide, I simply wanted to list out the arguments I have heard over the last few months, and I have been swayed by a number of conflicting arguments.  Yes, like the situation on the ground in Syria, this is one big grey area.  And while Americans like black and white and me may live in a digital world, problems and decisions go beyond 1’s and 0’s.

The president will take to the airwaves on Tuesday, September 10th to argue his case for action to the American people.  September 10th, just 12 years after America got the wake-up call about jihadists and global terror.  I will listen to what he has to say, many will mock and ridicule him out of hand and others will eat up everything he says as gospel.  For one hour, let’s stop worrying about Miley, Dancing With The Stars, Johnny Manziel, the pennant race, and the cast of Fifty Shades of Grey, and listen to what President Obama has to say.  We all may just learn something.

For the record: I support a narrow mission that weakens Assad’s ability to murder innocent civilians that leads to a diplomatic solution where Assad is no longer in power.

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