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The afternoon shift – The Syrian situation.

April 9, 2018

Normally, Musings tries to stay out of the international political realm, primarily because it isn’t top-of-mind on Main Street.

The subject of Syria has crossed that threshold.

There are two schools of thought on the U.S. involvement in world politics among Trump voters.

One side says we should mind our own business unless we are attacked, while the other says that limited involvement, particularly when it involves national security is a necessary evil.

Syria isn’t overtly threatening the United States. It hasn’t bombed us, or infiltrated our elections.

To the extent that it allowed us to operate within its borders to break up the ISIS caliphate, it may have even been an uneasy ally, in the sense that politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Does that mean we should ignore the  bad things it does to its own people?

Gassing people to death because they don’t acquiesce to your political views would be one of those red lines that politicians love to bandy about.

This President has said and demonstrated that to him, red lines are things to be enforced.

That should be everyone’s business.

First, there shouldn’t have been any deadly gases left in Syria.  Didn’t Russia assure us that Assad had no more of them?

Second, while regime change is a sticky wicket,  Assad should have drawn more than just handwringing from the international political world long before now.

Ideally, there should be an international warrant out for him for crimes against humanity.

To do that, the world would need to convene a war crimes tribunal, which is essentially an international criminal court.  Most recently that has been done under the auspices of the United Nations.

(Case Western Reserve University published a dissertation by Michael P. Scharf on the politics of how and why that is done in 1997 for those that want more information on the process.)

Much as many might see the easiest solution to the Assad problem as a bunker buster, it doesn’t work that way in real life.

How does all that play into American politics?

First, there’s the cost of keeping troops in Syria after our stated reason for being there, i.e to destroy the physical ability of ISIS to strike us at home is mostly over.

For the cost of fighting what appear to be holding actions in Afghanistan and the Middle East, we could buy every single pilot a new plane.

President Trump ran on disentangling our military from the Middle East and it won him a lot of votes.

Yet here we are, still spending taxpayer money to defend people in the Middle East while we argue about spending even a dollar on defending our own borders.

You can understand why the President finds that incongruous, and why he thinks it might be a good idea to stop doing it.

Maybe so, but there is a right and wrong way to disengage.

Advertising our intentions on a website smacks mightily of the folly committed by many of his predecessors, particularly the most recent one.

Most people who read his intention to withdraw from Syria when he tweeted it had one of those WTF moments.

Whether that emboldened Assad to attack his own citizens with chemical weapons is a matter for conjecture.   It’s far more likely he did it with instigation, if not actual assistance from Russia, to test our commitment to our principles as well as our resolve.

With only 2,000 troops in Syria, we can’t mount a full-fledged military operation against him even if we wanted to do so.

One thing the President is right about, is that it would behoove the Middle East to start solving its own problems.

No matter what action is taken in response to the use of chemical weapons in this instance, making that happen needs to be a U.S. priority.

That could mean approaching the UN about a tribunal as well as perhaps a NATO peacekeeping mission.

That’s one place where the U.S. could participate without having to shoulder all of the cost, and still take a stand against a dictator who solves his  political problems with nerve gas.


From → op-ed

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