Wednesday, August 28, 2013


It seems that if there were one thing that history might have taught us over the past century, it should be that the proximate reasons offered for going to war never explain anything of consequence.  Sometimes, the identified enemy helps along the decision process as was the case of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  More recently, our leaders have offered up only the flimsiest of excuses with no basis in fact such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident that justified Johnson's expansion of the war against the Vietnamese.  Bush's WMD scare tactics are widely seen now as something of a joke.

And yet, we find ourselves once again preparing to engage in acts of war in circumstances that are justified by explanations which seem to lack a substantial connection to provable facts.

And, if it is proven that Assad is the responsible actor for the gas attack on the Damascus suburb, is proceeding to drop bombs on the country a rational response?  A hundred thousand people have been torn to pieces in the country by bombs, artillery and machine guns.  More have now died as a result of the apparent use of nerve gas.  It is an atrocity. But, how certain is the identity of the perpetrators, and how is U.S. bombing going to shift the conflict toward a resolution favorable to Syrian and long-term U.S. interests?

It may be true, as a NY Times headline blares, that "Momentum Builds for a Military Strike in Syria."  However, it is worth asking where that momentum is originating -- it is apparently not coming from the American people, only 9 percent of which believe that such a course is a good idea, according to a recent Reuters poll.  It also isn't coming from Congress; there is some doubt that Obama will even take the time to ask for opinions from that quarter.  Not that it would matter, of course, as the House and Senate have given up their powers to declare and support hostilities.

If we are really looking to save lives, a more productive strategy might be to pay attention to the million-and-a-half (two million and rising) Syrian refugees that are currently only getting minimal help in surviving.  Their presence in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq is destabilizing the whole region, and it seems quite possible that bombing Syria is mostly going to put more pressure on those areas.

It could be a few days yet before the Administration can justify commencing with hostilities.  In the meantime, would it be too much to ask what the support and delivery of all those cruise missiles is going to cost in actual dollars, and what else might be accomplished by other means on the ground for the same amount of money and effort?

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