We’ve been back and forth on the issue of Syria here at the Banter for several weeks now with readers and contributors split as to what the US should (or shouldn’t do). As the Obama administration gets closer and closer to unilaterally attacking the Assad government, one thing is clear: we have absolutely no idea whether bombing them will do anything to stop the raging civil war.
This obviously prompts the question, why do it?
Here are 6 reasons why not:
1. It’s illegal. An attack on Syria without international support and the authorization from the UN would be completely illegal under international law – in fact technically a war crime. As Craig Martin, Associate Professor of Law, Washburn University School of Law GET writes in the Huffington Post:
To assess the legality of the strikes we need to look at the international law legal regime on the use of force, established with the U.N. system after World War II. It prohibits any and all use of force against other states (Art. 2(4) of the U.N. Charter), except for the purpose of individual or collective self-defense (Art. 51), or as authorized by the U.N. Security Council for the purposes of restoring or maintaining collective security (Arts. 39-42).
There is absolutely no way an attack on Syria is justified given international support has collapsed and Syria isn’t attacking America. Americans generally have a pretty low opinion of the UN and international law (Goddamit we’re Americans so we can do whatever the hell we want!), but if the US is going to insist everyone else (ie. Syria) respect international law, then maybe it should too.
2. There are no good outcomes. Even with a very basic understanding of the crisis in Syria (here’s a helpful guide in the Washington Post if you’re stuck) it’s clear that every type of intervention has serious pitfalls. Getting rid of Assad’s secular government would leave a massive power vacuum with militant Islamists likely to assume control. Bombing him without getting rid of him empowers him in the long run as Assad will make a reputation for himself standing up to the Western Imperialists. Both ensure internecine warfare between the Alawites, Sunnis and Jihadist groups continues with a strong possibility of massive escalation.
3. It’s politically incredibly dangerous for Obama. The President is stuck between a rock and a hard place – he can’t get anything past Congress at home and he’s constantly battling childish Republican attempts to defund Obamacare, pin conspiracies on him (Benghazi), and wreck the economy by stopping him from raising the debt ceiling. If this gets bungled, the Republicans will have a field day and take him to the cleaners. Given there are no good military options, there’s a good chance an attack will make it worse (see no.2 above) and open Obama up to attacks from literally everyone, including the left.
4. Public opinion. Public opinion is firmly against an attack on Syria. Just take a look at some sample polls:
Not all political decisions should be made with poll numbers in mind, but the data shows conclusively that Americans don’t want their government to get involved in yet another war in the Middle East. Given they are the ones who will be paying for it, it seems reasonable to respect their opinions.
5. Blowback. This is the term the CIA uses for “unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the aggressor”. Should the US get involved in Syria, there will no doubt be consequences for its actions. Americans are for the most part, completely removed from the violence their military inflicts around the world and are flabbergasted when it hits them at home. While the attacks on 9/11 were monstrous crimes, they were not (at least to the historically aware) surprising. The US has propped up and installed numerous dictators in the Middle East, funded brutal wars, and abused its people (with chemical weapons it should be added) for decades. There’s no way of knowing how an attack on Syria will come back to haunt America, but given the anger and resentment felt towards the US in the region, it’s a good bet military action won’t go unnoticed.
6. Obama’s ruined second term. War is a serious matter and committing to an act of extreme violence should be carefully considered and thought out beforehand. It seems to me that the Obama Administration has boxed itself in on the issue and may well commit to action knowing it doesn’t have a good exit strategy. Obama may well end up going to war to save face while ruining his entire second term in office when dealing with the fallout. Obama, like every other President, has done much right and much wrong thus far in office. He still has the ability to do great things, but not if he is engaged in a long term struggle in Syria. It is not a war he can win, and not a war he’ll want his legacy to be defined by.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments section.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.