Monday, September 9, 2013

Syrian Warning


After President Obama asked Congress to give its opinion on military intervention in the civil war in Syria, I sent an email to James Himes, my representative to Congress, asking him to consider the possible outcomes that might result. I wrote, “I hope you will ask for intelligence estimates of how many lives will be lost on both sides under the various scenarios.”

I believe that the possibility that we will do more harm than good far outweighs any other question. Even if there is irrefutable proof that the Assad forces used chemical weapons, that would still not justify an intervention that would cost much more destruction and many more lives than were lost during the chemical attacks.

Does anyone seriously think that President Bush or Vice President Cheney would have launched invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan after 911 if someone had been able to present them with the actual consequences that ensued? If President Obama could have looked into a crystal ball and seen how the attack on the Benghazi embassy would from his Libyan intervention, does anyone think he would have gone ahead?

Mine was not the only letter that Congressman Himes has received. He and other Members of Congress have received a torrent of mail on the subject. Himes did  respond and indicated that he had been briefed by the President and others on the contents of highly confidential intelligence reports. His response also included a survey question asking me to choose between four or five different options.

Subsequently, just yesterday he and senior Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut appeared at a local town hall type forum in Darien to sample public opinion. According to the news report Himes admitted that the response to his survey had been overwhelmingly opposed to any military intervention in Syria. In her weekly column in the Wall St. Journal Peggy Noonan indicated that polls showed that 80% opposed an attack on Syria.

Nevertheless, Representative Himes and Senator Blumenthal indicated on Sunday that their minds were still not made up. However, the recently elected junior senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, has already seen the handwriting on the wall and decided to vote against intervention in Syria despite a personal call from President Obama.

Speaking of the President it would seem that his strongest supporter on intervention in Syria would be his most outspoken enemy, the Wall St. Journal. The Journal and some of its columnists have been the drums for strong action. One columnist even urged a pinpoint attack to assassinate Assad and his whole family. The Journal believes that the USA is the sole bastion of world order and that we must live up to our role.

Even though I am a great admirer of the WSJ I can’t but feel that they have gone off the rails on this world order business. It seems pretty clear to me that in the last dozen years successive American administrations have done more to create disorder in the world than anyone else. Although President Obama promised a new era in foreign policy on his election in 2008, it is now clear that his Administration has de-stabilized the entire Middle East. In a few short years the so-called Arab Spring has turned into chaos. Disorder reigns all the way from Libya to Afghanistan.

I know that our country is tired of war and we want our soldiers back home. I also know that it is rare for us to consider an attack on a country or regime that poses no threat to us. Assad is no Hitler bent on world domination. Iran and North Korea pose a much greater threat than Syria and North Korea does have weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the North Korean regime has been starving its people for years. Is that nicer than killing them with chemicals? For that matter, why haven’t we attacked Libya after the terrorist attack on the Benghazi embassy. An attack on an American embassy or consulate is considered an attack on American soil. What has been our response there?

Pope John Paul II urged President Bush not to invade Iraq but he failed to listen. Pope Francis has urged President Obama not to seek a military solution in Syria. People in power should not brush these warnings aside as impractical theological nonsense. In the gospels Jesus was almost Machiavellian when he cautioned rulers to consider all the consequences before going to war. He told the parable of the King who wisely withdrew from the brink when he discovered that his enemy’s force was twice as large as his.

Congressman Himes should not vote for war on the basis of intelligence estimates of chemical weapons. He should consider the cost in human life on all sides of the civil war in Syria, and also the possibility that the results of all our military efforts will only aid and abet our real enemies in the area.



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