The conundrum that is Syria continues to confound. What is the proper action? Who should take it? What do terms like "military action" mean? What happens if the UN decides against military action? What if the House decides against it? These are difficult and troubling times. People have to think about Germany in the late 1930s and Rwanda and the Belgian Congo and decide when it's appropriate to intervene. Are a few deaths at the hands of the U.S. military okay if it means saving many thousands more? Are we the world's police? Should we be? Will intervention just make matters worse?
As discussed previously on this blog
, the previous administration really screwed the pooch for further humanitarian intervention by the U.S. by lying about the intelligence, and then bogging us down in a costly and deadly occupation. The country and even the rest of the world is jaded and wary
about claims of WMD and the need for immediate action before the inspectors release their report results. This is one of those few situations where it does not break down along party lines. Some Republicans are gung-ho for intervention; others are taking a libertarian approach. Some Democrats are in favor of intervention for humanitarian reasons; others are against it for anti-war reasons. Whatever decision is made, half of the country (and a lot of the international community) will be very angry.
This president (and SoS John Kerry) are not stupid. They know the stakes, and they've seen the classified intelligence. I don't understand why a swift and immediate response is required before the inspectors have released their report. Are they concerned the report will come back inconclusive or contradict what they know and can't say in public? It seems to me that if a strike is ordered before the report results are released, and then the results say "not sure about that", it will forever tarnish President Obama's legacy in the same way that Bush's legacy is tarnished.
Part of the problem may be the nebulous language of "military action". What does that mean? In some people's minds, they see the boots-on-the-ground actions we took in Iraq, and a long, costly, and deadly war. If the problem is the use of chemical weapons, then preventing their use could be as simple as taking out radar antennas and putting big holes in the runways used by Syria's jets. That would severely limit their Air Force with minimal (possibly zero) human death. I am guessing, though, that the administration doesn't want to produce a laundry list of targets for obvious reasons.
The UN is still trying to coordinate peace talks
, which is absolutely appropriate. A peaceful solution is absolutely desireable (maybe we need to send Jimmy Carter). Sometimes, though, a little leverage helps. Enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria would prevent most deployment of WMD, and cut back on conflict and death in general. Economic sanctions would provide leverage as well. These are things the UN can and should do.
What's encouraging, though, is that we as a nation (and a world of nations) are having this discussion. What needs to be clarified are what the terms mean, what the limits of actions would be, and the realization that there are more options than just carpet bombing or humanitarian aid.