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Empire Editorial: Is there an upside to blasting away at Syria?

Posted: September 4, 2013 - 9:01pm  |  Updated: September 5, 2013 - 12:12am

More than 100,000 Syrians have died under the regime of Bashar Hafez al-Assad over roughly 30 months of violent conflict. Artificially-drawn red lines aside, we’re trying and failing to find an upside to President Barack Obama’s clearly-telegraphed plans to send a barrage of cruise missiles against Syrian military sites. Even a more robust attack seems futile, and the endgame is anyone’s guess.

We hope U.S. lawmakers will vote the will of most Americans and refuse to authorize this military attack.

Alaska’s U.S. Senators are wary and seeking what Sen. Lisa Murkowski calls presentation of a “clear plan” on actions taken against Syria’s military as the U.S. Congress prepares to take up the issue.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee seems less circumspect, voting Wednesday 10-7 in a bipartisan effort joined by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D- Calif.) to grant the President authority to mount a military strike on Syria.

We agree with U.S. Rep. Don Young, who presently opposes any form of military intervention at this time despite the horrific chemical weapons attack that spurred our president’s long overdue call to direct action.

While the president wants to go this alone, the magnitude of Syria’s actions against its own people calls for an international coalition, not a U.S. ‘vigilance committee’ dispensing some frontier justice to the “bad guys.” We’re not even sure who the “bad guys” are, with some foreign radical Islamic insurgents there attempting to hijack the Syrian people’s revolution.

The Syrian conflict needs a resolution, not another aggravation leading to a potentially deadly and costly future U.S. entanglement.

Isolationism is a dangerous policy, one that leads aggressive foreign powers to take over weaker countries, as happened in the build-up to World War II. But America truly is not, as the cliche goes, the world’s policeman. We have no dog in this fight; the Syrian people must settle this on their own.

An armed response over the massacres in Syria now seems too little too late, and the proposed missile strikes seem unnecessary and ill-conceived.

Among our concerns:

• There will be no element of surprise. Already, there is an exodus of high-ranking Syrian military and civilian leaders fleeing to safer places. Targets will likely be quite empty when the fireworks begin.

• Those civilians left in the American barrage’s target area will be those without the means to flee.

• Air strikes are an ineffective means of convincing a population to abandon their leader. This was proven in World War II when Germany bombed British civilians, and U.S. and British bombers flattened city after city in Germany. The public on both sides dug in.

• Any military operation in the Middle East immediately activates the Law of Unintended Consequences. Our government has no idea how Assad’s regime will react, how other Arab nations will react, how Russia and China will react, or if America’s unilateral action will actually strengthen the pariah Assad’s position among those in the region who see America as their enemy. We do know that Israel, a likely proxy target of Assad, is launching test missiles. Unlike Syria, Israel is a nuclear nation.

• Chemical weapons attacks are violations that the United Nations should address, and the U.N. and the Arab League should take the lead on cleaning up the mess in Syria. It’s no wonder even our staunchest allies, the British, are sitting this one out.

Wars are won by boots on the ground, not missiles in the air. There is no national will that we can discern among the American public to send American troops to die on Syrian soil. A limited attack by U.S. forces will likely hamper, but not destroy, the Assad regime’s ability to continue slaughtering their own people. So what’s the point? The plan is not to topple the Assad regime and leave the country in the hands of the rebels. We’re going to send off volleys of expensive missiles to blow up some replaceable military compounds and then go home to watch the results on CNN.

The question is, why choose Syria as a place to take a militarily-backed moral stand, and why do it now? President Obama drew a “red line” — the use of chemical weapons — and will look ineffective if he does not do something. Although it is legally the right thing to do, the President looked ineffective in the eyes of the Syrian leadership when he abdicated this choice to the U.S. Congress.

The President’s ego is no reason to risk further destabilizing an unstable region by lobbing high explosives into a nest of powderkegs. Our elected officials must vote no on this potentially calamitous misadventure.

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