PERRY/Should we strike Syria?
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 1:00 AM
What, if any, military response should the United States take against Syria after apparently using chemical weapons on its own people? President Barack Obama has asked Congress for a resolution of force to support a strike.
Published reports show Mississippi's delegation is divided.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the lone Democrat from Mississippi and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he is "not convinced that the administration's support will resolve the issues in Syria" and he is leaning toward a "no" vote.
Senator Roger Wicker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "I support [military action] and, as a matter of fact, I've been calling for the administration for the last two years to do what we could to help the moderate rebels to keep the radicals out of the opposition there and to overthrow Bashir Al Assad." He argues removing Assad would be a blow to Iran.
Sen. Thad Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said, "The senator thinks everybody realizes that the use of chemical weapons is very serious...The senator understands that there has to be some U.S. official reaction to the actions taken by the regime in Syria against its own people. It violates the Geneva Convention."
Rep. Gregg Harper has questions he wants answered, "Syria is certainly something that concerns us all, and first of all, the deaths of citizens by chemical weapons, innocent women, children, men is unacceptable. The questions that we have for the president would be 'What happens after you do a strike?', 'What if they do another chemical attack?', 'What happens if Iran attacks Israel?', 'What's your endgame?', 'Will you do a second strike?', 'Will it be leading to boots on the ground?' Who are the players? Who are the good actors in Syria? If we help the rebels, the rebels are controlled by Al-Qaeda, that's our enemy. So what are we gaining?"
Congressman Steven Palazzo appears skeptical, "I do not see a win in this situation, but when you start gassing and hurting women and children, we can't sit by idly and wait...we've got to have a clear strategy....do what we have to do to secure the innocent civilians and then, let's work on this long-term Middle-Eastern strategy." Palazzo said he is "hesitant to engage our men and women in uniform in another lengthy and costly war halfway around the world, especially if there is no direct threat to the United States."
Congressman Alan Nunnelee, believes the President could act without congress on an immediate threat to national security, but, "The situation in Syria does not rise to that level; therefore, he needs to come to Congress for authorization before any military actions are taken."
I believe American military force should only be used to protect and defend our national interests; but, I'm not an isolationist. I believe America's national interests require financial and military support of our allies, or sometimes of non-allies when doing so prevents them from being enemies or adversaries.
The question of human rights complicates this position. We did not openly act against Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao Zedong in China, or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as they killed millions through internal purges.
Last month Obama, sounding much like former President George W. Bush, said, "We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus."
The New York Times, based on conversations with surprised presidential aides and advisers, called the "red line" quote "unscripted" and going further than expected.
If the strike is, as Obama warned in his "red line" speech, to prevent weapons of mass destruction from "falling into the hands of the wrong people," then to me, that is in our national interest. It is also in our national interest to not bluff with our threats of intervention. Perhaps Obama should not have made the "red line" threat; but he did.
The White House has said this is not about regime change. And for us to attack Syria for killing its own people while allowing regimes like North Korea or African warlords to kill thousands of their own people, sends the message it is fine to murder your own people as long as you don't do it chemically.
But it is in our national interests to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction from Syria to groups who would use them to attack us. Whether that can be accomplished without collateral damage among the Syrian people, or some American boots on the ground, remains to be seen.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.