On The Topic Of Syria, We Should Look To The Past

The impending attack on Syria is no secret. This attack has been so thoroughly telegraphed, that the only way anyone could not know it is coming, would be if they were hiding under a rock without a smartphone. Its politically motivated, which is also no secret. The issue I take with this coming event, is the uncertainty of it all. Perhaps its time we take a look at the Powell Doctrine. This doctrine is built on eight key questions that must be asked before military action is taken.

1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?

2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?

3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?

4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?

5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?

7. Is the action supported by the American people?

8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Is a vital national security interest threatened?

For question 1, a number of answers in the affirmative exist, each filled with varying degrees of spin. If the ongoing Syrian civil war represents an imminent threat to Israel, then yes, a national security interest is threatened. Those that claim Syria’s civil war could serve to destabilize the Middle East would argue a strike serves a national security interest. If that is truly the case, then why did we wait until the third year of this civil war to act? I could go on, and analyze other claims and arguments, but they are similarly ambiguous. In my eyes, intervention in Syria does not meet the criteria set out in question 1.

Do we have a clear attainable objective?

A better question would be, do we have a clear attainable objective at all? To me, the entire idea of a strike on Syria seems to be simple posturing. An attack relying on cruise missiles, against a limited number of targets, would achieve certain objectives. These objectives would do little to alter the current balance of the civil war raging in Syria. Short of a full on campaign, a limited cruise missile attack accomplishes little. This is about the use of chemical weapons against a civilians. A limited strike does little to remove chemical weapon stockpiles from the Syrian arsenal. So I ask, what is the ‘clear attainable objective’ we have in mind?

Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed? 

I seriously question if the risks and costs have been fully and frankly analyzed. What are the long terms costs politically? What are the risks in the region, and globally, a Syrian strike brings? This entire situation is crazier than a bag full of cats, and could result in unexpected consequences within the region, and elsewhere. What of the risks and costs for our allies? Why are these questions not being asked?

Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?

I would argue that no, other non-violent policy means have not been fully exhausted. If we are to side with rebel forces fighting Syrian government forces, would our goal not be better served by training and arming these rebel forces? Would we not contribute more by offering logistic assistance and humanitarian aid? Have we engaged in deep level discussions with Russia, seeking an agreement to end the supply of arms to Syria in return for granting a Russian want?

Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

In my eyes, it seems a cruise missile strike is its own exit strategy. A strike, even a relatively insignificant strike, allows for the US to claim we did something, before washing our hands of the situation. As long as ground forces remain out of the equation, the exit strategy is clear. Does this mean a strike will not lead to endless entanglements in the region or elsewhere? No, it certainly does not.

Is the action supported by the American people?

A resounding no is the simple answer to this one. Public support for this is slim. After twelve years at war, the American public has little appetite for anything that could result in another longterm military mission, especially in the Middle East.

Do we have genuine broad international support?

International support exists, yes. In many ways, the international community cries for action are fueling this. Incredibly, even the United Nations seems to support action. International support for a strike is great, but will those same international supporters still support a strike should this situation go sideways? I wager they will not. The further souring of relations with Russia must also be considered.

If any of you can point to a threatened national interest, or a clear objective, I would love to hear what they might be. From my vantage point, I’m simply not seeing it at this point. To sell me on the need for a strike, I think the President needs to be a bit more forthcoming with facts supporting the need for a military strike. Until that happens, I will continue to question the logic behind a strike. For the record, I am far from a noninterventionist.

~ by arcturus415 on August 28, 2013.

2 Responses to “On The Topic Of Syria, We Should Look To The Past”

  1. Both of the warring factions in Syria are self-declared enemies of the USA. Both sides have chemical weapons. Either side or both sides may have used chemical weapons. Al Quaida’s cause it the Sunni objective, establishing a world wide Islamic state. The Assad regime is Shiite, their objective is simply to eliminate foreign interference in their sphere of influence (the middle east). The US will always be enemies of whichever side comes out ahead, in Syria will be anti American, so let’s stay out of the conflict

    • As far as rebel forces are concerned, its not that simple. They are a mishmash of groups, that rarely get along. To lump them all together as enemies of the US isn’t accurate. Assad is actually an Alawite.

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