The Syria questions

As President Obama continues to embark on a path to attack Syria for its probable use of chemical weapons, several major issues remain unanswered. Questions that not only address the use of deadly force by the nation, but also address consequences that could reach far into the future.

The first and most pressing issue is if the President can act without the authorization of Congress. As Senator Obama stated December 20, 2007

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As commander-in-chief, the president does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”

The key to that statement is “actual or imminent threat to the nation.” It is the same critical point brought up by Rep. Scott Rigell’s letter to the President sent August 28, 2013. It is the crux of the War Powers Act of 1973.

Without a threat to the nation, use of force against Syria is unconstitutional if it fails to have the consent of the Congress as I and apparently 150 members of Congress believe (Rep. Richard Hanna, my congressman, is NOT among the 100 Republicans and 50 Democrats that support the Rigell letter currently).

The second question is what is the benefit? Assuming that either Congress approves, or there is a national threat that thus far appears unproven, what is the gain to America for having taken action?

If the attack of the Syrian government is limited, as has been widely discussed by the White House, to just bombings then it means that collateral damage is likely. Collateral damage can be destruction of infrastructure and deaths of civilians. Such damage feeds into terrorist groups, using the grief and strife to fuel recruitment that given time can lead to terrorist attacks on America. Just imagine a child that has lost a parent, or a parent of a child that is critically wounded via collateral damage, and a nefarious organization preying upon them under the guise of hitting back against America and you can visualize the scenario.

Against such a potential problem, among many others, what will be achieved? President Obama has already stated that US action will not result in a regime change. Due to the mix of rebel supporters that are known enemies of the US, the strength and depth of integration among the rebels being unknown, the US currently does not want to provide additional support to rebels. So the proposed action in effect does nothing to change the situation in Syria, thus how does America benefit?

It should also be noted that the American public, that of Britain and Germany, as well as other nations do not believe military action should be taken. They too do not see a benefit, and as such support to the US has already been impeded.

Third is a question of planning. What is the purpose to the attack against Syria? What is President Obama trying to gain ultimately?

Attacking a sovereign nation, under internal conflict or not, never just ends with the last bomb going off. There are consequences that continue long after. The US relationship with Russia and the other Middle East nations will be affected. Considering the lack of support form critical allies England and Germany, and the potential of unilateral action, all consequences will lie solely on the US. Is there any contingency for how say Iran, or Hezbola, or China may react? Will this impede the use or production of future chemical weapons by Syria or any other nation? Does this signal a US willingness to attack other nations with chemical weapon stores – and if so, how does the US justify the stores of chemical weapons that we have?

At this time, no plan – coherent or otherwise – has been offered to address any of these concerns. In fact, beyond the act of aggression, no other forward looking proposal has been made. The ramifications of this range from the mundane to the extreme. If the current Assad regime wins the internal Syrian conflict, the US will have created an enemy that will remember what we did in their difficult time. If rebels factions win, many are aligned with organizations and nations that outright hate America. Even if those factions of rebels are not the clear winner, Syria will become a nation akin to Libya, Egypt, and others that are torn by internal power plays and vacuums increasing Middle East instability.

Considering what is known at this time, the conclusion that can be drawn from just these simple questions, is that:

  • There is no threat to America from the internal Syrian conflict that is immediate or even an obvious direct consequence from non-action.
  • There is no benefit (direct or long-term) to the US if a limited non-regime changing attack were to take place.
  • The production and use of chemical weapons will not be hindered, globally or regionally, whether or not the US attacks Syria.
  • The consequences of taking this action will cause a ripple in the Middle East that is likely to have ramification long-term that will in all cases be negative to the US.
  • The American people, and those of some of its closest allies, do not believe that military action is the correct path.
  • Without a justification greater than – to put it crudely – ‘I am the president and I think it’s bad’, there seems to be no reason to engage Syria. Until a clear and definitive plan of action can be constructed, that takes into account all of the above and more, it is best for America to remain outside of this internal conflict. That is true even if the fact that chemical weapons are being used is accurate, as seems probable at this time.

    What is most shocking at this time is that 285 members of Congress (including my own representative, Rep. Hanna) have not joined Rep. Rigell in demanding justification and congressional approval prior to action. This is not about partisan politics, but ultimately the best interest of America. Allowing a poorly thought out military strike today can and likely will result in ramifications that will be an actual and imminent threat to the nation in the future.

    But that is my opinion.

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