Syria’s use of chemical weapons is as heinous as it is unacceptable, and, ultimately, the United States’ ill-conceived foray into Iraq under the Bush Administration is irrelevant to that particular point (that we’ve resurrected opinions of the likes of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz is despairing enough).
If we are to preserve any moral and ethical credibility for the future, the United States has to lead, and sometimes that might mean leading the world.
Sometimes we lead others who are following. Sometimes we can only lead by example. But the there is no question of the necessity of our leadership.
Fist, in regard to allusions to the war in Iraq, from one view the very fact of our unprovoked attack on Iraq – and the argument and basis for it that received overwhelming U.S. public and Congressional support – demands that we act against the Assad regime in Syria. Indeed, while the Bush Administration was relegated to yellow cake fabrications and far-fetched hyperbolic hypotheticals, the Obama Administration and the world has before it hard-fact intelligence collected by both the United Nations, the United States, and other allies that adds up to as much incontrovertible circumstantial evidence that we – or any international tribunal – could ever demand. I mean, if what we have right now is not enough to indict Assad, then we might as well shut down every intelligence apparatus we have, shut down the United Nations, shut down the Hague. So for members of Congress or anyone else to withhold approval of action in Syria because they “are not convinced” that Syria gassed its own people smacks of partisan politics, at best, and of incumbents privileging re-election over national and international morals and ethics worst.
And that is where leadership by example comes in. We elect our national representatives, I hope, because of what we believe is their Wisdom of Solomon they will marshal in those impossible moments we never anticipated, those impossible moments that, perhaps, even they did not anticipate. We did not elect them to could poll their uninformed constituents at the first sign of crisis and seek guidance. Leadership by consensus is not really much leadership. CNN, Fox News, and other networks’ polls are entertaining to watch, I suppose, but the polls that counted were those that seated our elected representatives.
Assad is quick to point out that an attack would demand a response. There are terrorists waiting the wings – or already acting – who need another excuse to attack the United States or our interests. They might attack our embassies . . . they did that already. Assad even went so far as to threaten chemical attack on our interests in the Middle East. They might attack Israel . . . they do that already. Iran or Syria might attack Israel (frankly, at this point, I’d like to see that, for an attack on Israel would bring about a lightning quick regime change in both Iran and Syria, and Israel would not wait for our or anyone else’s approval).
If the United States is not willing to lead now in the face of these crimes against humanity, then I hope we will at least consciously and deliberately relegate ourselves to – and embrace – the long-term isolationism that paralysis and indecision in the face of the facts in Syria today demands and let the Middle East Sharia-law itself into four or five decades of decline, marginalization and irrelevance that, maybe, will finally motivate some self-imposed intellectual evolution and technological progress in the place.
Now, Congressmen, you are in charge. Lead. Stop looking over your shoulder and counting votes for the next election cycle. Assad’s war crimes in Syria are inexcusable, and if you turn a blind eye to them, you are excusing him. Do not later talk about absence of intelligence or what your constituents wanted. Your moral and ethical high ground is gone.
Certainly, action in Syria could very well expand into something larger. That is a risk. It is all about risk. There are no guarantees. That’s why we have a professional military. They can plan for contingencies. Let them.
But inaction in Syria will absolutely expand into something larger, too. Inaction will say loudly and clearly that the United States has lost its way, and we cannot count on them to lead any more.
What a relief, yes?
I am tired of war. I was morally and emotionally exhausted watching our nation march like a runaway train into a despicable war of choice in Iraq in the wake of September 11, 2001, while we grossly neglected a war of necessity in Afghanistan. I am exhausted by the more-than-decade long cloud that has hovered over the world since 11 September and its fallout.
But for soldiers, being tired was never an excuse. Soldiers do their duty. They always have, and they always will.
Now it is time for Congress to do its duty and lead. Lead the nation. Lead the world. Show us all that we have not forgotten – and will not forget nor ignore – what is right.