Bombing Syria: There is No Right Way to Do This; There’s No “Good” Side to be On

There’s an interesting article up at Slate today in which they weight the pros and cons of an attack on Syria. I think it’s worth reading. It’s an interesting list of rationale from people both sides of the fence. I’ve pulled just a few out, but it’s worth reading the whole list. What’s so sad is that the silliest reason of all, “It’s the American thing to do,” offered by Boehner, is probably the reason it will happen.

I, for one, do not believe we should even be considering this. The main reason I oppose air strikes at this time is that what Assad has done (if he in fact, even has control of his own generals & their insane decision to use chemical weapons), is unthinkable, unspeakable, and presents an urgent issue that needs international pressure. This issue is far to serious in terms of the world community, for the U.S. to deal with unilaterally. This requires international cooperation and pressure. If we don’t have that, then take the case to the world, not to the House and Senate. Build an international coalition – that really shouldn’t be too difficult – and use diplomatic pressure.

I have other reasons as well: There is not a “good” side to be on in this conflict. Assad seem almost sociopathic (read the article today in the NYTimes, he and his wife are still playing Stepford family). But the rebels are no better. When the dust settles in this conflict, there will be no one left standing with whom the U.S. can be friendly. There is no international support for an attack, so it will be unilateral and widely condemned. The country doesn’t support it. It’s costly. There is no end-game. There is no such thing as a “surgical” air strike. Attacks like this always kill a lot of innocent non-combatants (which is, by the way, the rationale for attacking in the first place). Even our closest ally, Great Britain, is against the attack. And, it will most certainly continue to erode the U.S. reputation in the region and be yet another great recruiting tool for Al Quaeda.  Finally, it will draw attention away from the serious domestic issues that require our full attention.

The president is clearly convinced this is the right thing to do, but I think he’s wrong. He’s convincing more and more people, the latest being leaders in the House. We’ve been down this road before, shady-intel on weapons of mass destruction as a rationale for waging war. It was a huge mistake that time and it will be this time, too. Here’s the Slate excerpt.

Against:

  1. Syria will be another Iraq: “We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others. …We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire.” —Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
  2. Chaos will ensue: “Beyond the potential for escalating the conflict and the killing, we risk danger to our ally Israel, involvement by the Russians and the Iranians, and blowback to the United States by radical groups operating in the region.” —Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.
  3. Americans don’t want it: “Americans don’t support war in Syria and neither does Congress. No clear U.S. interest or strategy. We don’t want entanglement in this war.”  —Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
  4. Not in our national security interest: “After over a decade of war in the Middle East, there needs to be compelling evidence that there is an imminent threat to the security of the American people or our allies before any military action is taken. I do not believe that this situation meets that threshold.” —Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.
  5. A strike won’t do anything: “If we’re not going to destroy or secure the [chemical] stocks, if we’re not trying to change the regime, if this is all about making a point—and not a particularly effective one at that—then that strikes me as a rather frivolous use of American military power.” —Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
  6. Saving credibility isn’t a reason to attack: “The United States should only engage militarily when it is pursuing a clear and attainable national security goal. Military action taken simply to send a message or save face does not meet that standard.” —Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Fence Sitters:

  1. We bomb and then what? “I’m concerned about the consequences of a military strike in Syria, and what happens with step two, three and four after that.” —Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
  2. The resolution needs to be narrowed: “The White House has put forward a proposed bill authorizing the use of force that, as drafted, is far too broad and open ended, and could be used to justify everything from a limited cruise missile strike to a no fly zone and the introduction of American ground troops” —Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

For:

  1. OK, but make it small: “Whatever action the United States takes, it has to be limited action. This can’t be an open-ended commitment, and it definitely should not lead to American boots on the ground.” —Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.
  2. Don’t want to embolden Iran: “Iran is watching to see how we handle this. Iran to see how we respond as a test of how we will respond if and when they create weapons of Mass destruction.” —Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
  3. U.S. credibility at stake: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. told reporters that rejecting a resolution against Syria would be “catastrophic” and “it would undermine the credibility of the United States of America and the president of the United States. None of us wants that.”
  4. Dictators are watching: “It sends a message to … the ayatollah in Iran. … It sends a message to North Korea about our determination to stop them from continuing to make the Korean Peninsula. It sends messages to terrorist groups seek[ing] access to chemical weapons, because the world will largely stand by when you use them.” —Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
  5. It’s the American thing to doThe United States, for our entire history, has stood up for democracy and freedom for people around the world…only the United States has the capability and the capacity to—to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated.” —House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

 

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.


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