Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Syria Problem

For the last 2 days on the radio, I've been talking about the eventuality of the US sending cruise missiles into Syria (yes, I think Obama will get the authority from Congress), and still have lots of questions:

Why is killing 1,429 people with sarin gas so much worse than killing 100,000 with conventional weapons? If the dead (including 400 children) had been burned, shot with machine guns, or run over with tanks, would we have continued our previous policy of non-involvement?

When President Obama says the "red line" is not his, but the world's, where is the rest of the world? Last time I looked, he only had France on his side. Everyone else backed away.

If we're not going to oust Assad, what is the goal? Is it to even the playing field with the "rebels," who are mostly extremists who want to control Syria for their own reasons? As Edward Luttwak explained on my America Weekend show, if the "rebels" are successful in this civil war, we'd have to worry about the country being a base for jihad aimed at the US and Europe. We certainly don't want that, but we also don't want Assad continuing to slaughter Syrian civilians, so we really want a stalemate, and when is that a reason for going to war?

Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey all say we wouldn't bomb Assad's chemical weapons depots out of fear of exposing more innocent people to the gas. Instead, we'd target military command and control sites. But we'd let Assad stay in charge with all his toxic chemicals? I don't see how that could go wrong.

What if Assad uses his chemical weapons again? What's the next step for the US? There doesn't seem to be a long-term answer or plan -- or if there is, we're not being told what it is. I don't need operational details, but what's the goal?

Will UN weapons inspectors ever be allowed to finish their work? Will the US government ever wait for their conclusions before taking action? This isn't like some TV cop show, where the lab can process all the physical evidence the same day it's brought in and help law enforcement catch the bad guys before the hour is over. Science takes time. Put your gun back in your holster until we at least light the bunsen burners and set up the microscopes, graduated cylinders, and pipettes, please.

When will the US learn that it is not good at fixing other countries? When in recent history have we helped supplant an evil leader and ended up with a better replacement? I'm not saying we should leave dictators in place -- getting Mubarak out of Egypt was a good thing, but his successor (Morsi) turned out to be just as bad. And he's an example of why I'm not a fan of promoting democracy. After all, Morsi was elected in an open election. It's not that hard for bad guys to win a popular vote, even here in America (hi, Congress, we were just talking about you!). Instead of democracy, we should be promoting freedom, which is awfully hard to achieve with the tip of a missile.

Libya is just as big a disaster. Patrick Cockburn writes that, two years after the US helped knock Qaddafi off his throne, Libya has plunged into a political and economic crisis and has almost entirely stopped producing oil.

The United States of America must decide once and for all if we're going to be the nation that always steps in whenever another nation's leadership commits mass murder of its own people. If we are, we sure missed some opportunities in Rwanda, the Congo, Sudan, and even Syria for the last two years. If that's to be our policy, then let's apply it consistently. I'm sure there's a whole group of oppressed people in North Korea, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe who would appreciate some help. But if we're not going to step in for everyone, let's spend that time and money on some nation-building right here. Because I can show you some bridges and roads and schools that could certainly be fixed for the price of a few cruise missiles.