Ever since President al-Assad fired nerve gas at his own people over a week ago the debate has been raging regarding should the US "punish" Assad for attacking his own people with chemical weapons? Some have skipped the question and moved straight to should President Obama get approval from congress before he attacks Syria? Should he get approval from the UN?
Frankly It doesn't matter whether Obama needs legislative approval or not, and I am not a huge fan of consulting the UN--but I can state definitively that an action against Syria is the wrong thing for this country at this time.
The situation in Syria is tragic. What we have here is a "Civil" war being led by two terrorist groups and a terrorist state. On one hand you have the government forces, Hezbollah, and Iran; on the other side there is al Qaeda, other Islamists, and non-Islamist rebels. In-between are the innocent civilians who just want peace and freedom to raise their families.
John Kerry's statement the other day regarding the immorality of the Assad forces use of chemical weapons is right on, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should attack.
The Administration has made it clear that the goal of any US action would not be regime change. This seems to support what most experts believe, which is any attack would involve two or three days of tomahawk missile strikes against military targets in Assad-controlled territory.
History teaches us that the strikes will not have the results the administration might be looking for and may quite possibly inflame the entire region. Both Syrian and Iranian officials have indicated that any US attack would be answered with an attack on Israel. Israel has stated they will answer any attack in kind.
Between Israel and Syria lies the Kingdom of Jordan, a Hashemite government who rules over a country that is almost two-thirds Palestinian that has already been weakened by a rise in Islamism. It is in the United States' best interests that Jordan, a moderate Arab nation remain stable. Would a Syrian/Israeli conflict destabilize Jordan? It might.
Russia has indicated they would not fight a US attack militarily, however they would answer diplomatically thus worsening the already deteriorating relationship between the US and Russia. Even worse is that Russian charges that the US is breaking international law by attacking Syria will work to their advantage in creating alliances with non-aligned nations.
There are some who believe that by being on the receiving end of a few tomahawk missile strikes the al-Assad is going to immediately destroy its chemical weapons and apologize for using them. They also believe the Syrian government would never be crazy enough to use an American strike as an excuse to attack Israel.
I would remind those people that the Assad government was not only crazy enough to use chemical weapons but their most recent use occurred while the UN Chemical Weapons inspectors were in their country. That is some kind of crazy!
As Barry Rubin explains the Syrian regime has stayed in power precisely because it acts the part of the rogue crazy nation:
It often seemed as if the worse Syria behaved, the better its regime does. Syrian leaders do not accept the Western view that moderation, compromise, an open economy, and peace are always better. When Syria acts radical, up to a point of course, it maximizes its main asset— causing trouble—which cancels out all its other weaknesses. As a dictatorship, militancy provided an excuse for tight controls and domestic popularity through its demagoguery.
Success for the regime and state means disaster for the people, society, and economy. The regime prospers by keeping Syrians believing that the battle against America and Israel, not freedom and prosperity, should be their top priority. External threats are used to justify internal repression. The state’s control over the economy means lower living standards for most while simultaneously preserving a rich ruling elite with lots of money to give to its supporters.Through years of positive reinforcement from the West, Syria has learned that acting "crazy" is the best way to get what the regime wants.
So what are we left with?
Throughout its history this regime has used external threats to justify internal repression.A strike on Syria will not convince the al-Assad regime to give up its WMDs nor will it convince them to stop attacking their own people.
However a US strike on Syria may very well involve Israel and Iran, may possible further destabilize Jordan, and will further distance the US from Russia.
Actually the only positive result of an American action is that the federal government will feel good that it punished Syria.
Nations are not in the business of "punishment." They are in the business of protecting their citizens and their international interests. "Feeling good" is not one of those interests.
There is very little good that can come out of an attack on Syria but there are many negative results. For this country's interests the limited possible rewards is not worth the risk.