Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Monday, August 26, 2013

Should the U.S. Take Military Action In Syria?

Posted by on Mon, Aug 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

The White House now seems to believe that President Obama's "red line" has been crossed again:

Moving a step closer to possible American military action in Syria, a senior Obama administration official said Sunday that there was “very little doubt” that President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces had used chemical weapons against civilians last week and that a Syrian promise to allow United Nations inspectors access to the site was “too late to be credible.”



Comments (54) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Fifty-Two-Eighty 1
Look, Syria is a shithole. It's going to continue to be a shithole whether we intervene or not. What's the point in wasting a trillion dollars and thousands of lives there?
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on August 26, 2013 at 6:10 AM · Report this
delirian 2
There is nothing surgical about using airstrikes to pacify an enemy. If we learn from our experience in Iraq, we will see tens of thousands of people killed (at a minimum), institutions destabilized, and hundreds of thousands to millions of refugees. There are times when military action is justified, such as with genocide. But even war crimes as vile as using chemical weapons on civilians will probably have less of an impact than our hammer that we will crush them with.

This is not a situation where we can shut it down and pacify the country without occupying it. It is a shame what is going on, but he US is not the world police. And the As Ralph Bunche said "the world has had ample evidence that war begets only conditions that beget further war."
Posted by delirian on August 26, 2013 at 6:15 AM · Report this
Neither side in this war has views compatible with American ideals. Not one American life should be risked to support either the de facto monarchy of theives or the religious idiots opposing it.
Posted by DNash on August 26, 2013 at 6:20 AM · Report this
wingedkat 4
On the one hand, I feel like interventions in situations like this historically do not end well.

On the other, how can we continue to just sit and watch? I'd call the police if my neighbor was abusing his wife or child, even though intervening in domestic disputes rarely ends well. Ultimately I think it is better to try to help, even if nothing improves as a result.

That said, the US shouldn't do anything. The UN should, and we should be a part of that.
Posted by wingedkat on August 26, 2013 at 6:25 AM · Report this
CC-Rob 5
While our infrastructure is crumbling and human service budgets are being cut, another war is on the horizon. Money is never an issue for our great military adventures.
Posted by CC-Rob on August 26, 2013 at 6:48 AM · Report this
@4 I think that's probably the best way to go about it.

And why? On the one hand, we've got the power so we've got the responsibility to stop that kind of shit; but on the other hand going in and imposing ourselves on the world tends to cause more problems overall than it solves.

Going to the rest of the world and getting them behind us--literally leading the world, just like the nationalists scream that we should, and doing something worthy along the way is what we should be about.
Posted by die Giesthander on August 26, 2013 at 6:49 AM · Report this
Dr. Z 7
What would be the constitutional basis for such an intervention?
Posted by Dr. Z on August 26, 2013 at 6:54 AM · Report this
seatackled 8
@4, @6
The difficulty there is that Russia (and also China, I think) will reject any UN actions. I hear that European nations are more vocal than the US has been, so the lead should be left to them.

However, I would vigorously support giving both John McCain and Lindsay Graham a rifle and a grenade and parachuting them into Syria.
Posted by seatackled on August 26, 2013 at 7:00 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 9
Take out al-Assads command and control.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 26, 2013 at 7:10 AM · Report this
Rotten666 10
Crimes against humanity? This is exactly the shit our military should be used for.

Unfortunately for the Syrian people, the idiotic adventures of the previous administration have left the american public wary of such intervention. If Iraq never happened we would have been in Syria a year ago.
Posted by Rotten666 on August 26, 2013 at 7:23 AM · Report this
I'm with 4.

Remind me again who granted the U.S. the moral authority and the duty of serving as World Cop. Isn't that the U.N.'s job?

And, if Russia and China have reasons to oppose intervention by the U.N. then maybe they are right. After all, there are a lot of folks around here who think that cops should stay out of some things.
Posted by Charlie Mas on August 26, 2013 at 7:39 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 12
@ 7, lulz.
Posted by Matt from Denver on August 26, 2013 at 7:41 AM · Report this
care bear 13
Damned if we do, damned if we don't, but my gut feeling is that if we don't do anything it will be another Rwanda.
Posted by care bear on August 26, 2013 at 8:15 AM · Report this
The reason the US is world cop is because most countries who care can't do anything, and most countries that can do something don't care.
Posted by Daniel Francis on August 26, 2013 at 8:17 AM · Report this
@11 Maybe world cop isn't a good analogy. But if you saw one big guy guy beating the shit out of his wife while their kids watched in terror, would you stand by and do nothing but call the cops, or call the cops, grab a few other folks nearby, and try to break it up while waiting for the cops to answer?

The UN isn't the world police either - and its been defanged in a lot of ways so that it can't respond quickly to violent crisis. I don't think we should invade Syria to restore democracy - I think we should invade Syria to stop the terror and violence pro-government forces are inflicting on the civilians caught in the cross fire.
Posted by MtnFreak on August 26, 2013 at 8:20 AM · Report this
16 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
It's frustrating that the US led an invasion and a war over non-existent chemical weapons in Iraq, but hesitates over taking action in Syria.

For better or worse, President Obama made a very unambiguous statement that the use of chemical weapons would be 'crossing a red line' that would result in US action. Failure to act now would give any other regime out there with chemical weapons the signal that using them carries no consequences.

I'm not saying we need to put boots on the ground in Syria to help any specific faction win this civil war (there's going to be a shitty regime in Syria no matter who comes out on top, so why 'take sides') but the Asad regime needs to pay a price for what they've done.
Posted by SuperSteve on August 26, 2013 at 8:26 AM · Report this
I think we should, yes. On the whole "never again," principle.
Posted by GermanSausage on August 26, 2013 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 19
Dearest moderators,

Marcus Dixon @16 has just started indiscriminately dropping n-bombs and gone from implying racism to just spewing it. Probably safe to go ahead and ban him now. He was always a troll, but is really crossing the very forgiving Slog red line now.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on August 26, 2013 at 8:33 AM · Report this
Pithy Name 20
Goddamn. The parallels to 2003 are astonishing - except this time, we appear to have some pretty solid PROOF - not aerial photos of blurry trucks.

I agree with rotten666 & SuperSteve. If we don't do something now, when it's a REAL thing, what does that say? But again - with what resources? 10 years of wars (2!). What's the state of our military after all that?
Posted by Pithy Name on August 26, 2013 at 8:34 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 21
@7 We've signed treaties banning the use of chemical weapons.

Of course, the last administration set a horrible precedent of grandly ignoring treaties banning torture, and we've yet to fully honor a single Indian treaty in 200 years, so the real question may be, "Why now?"
Posted by Sir Vic on August 26, 2013 at 8:42 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 22
The USA played an active role in allowing and enabling Iraq to use chemical weapons against Iran (source). Then there's the whole Yellow Cake Uranium fiasco and fictional justification for the war in Iraq. The last legitimate things we've done from a military standpoint in foreign policy that weren't complete fuck ups were the interventions in the Balkans and the initial overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but even the latter there was half-assed. We should have put a million soldiers into the country to obliterate them down to the roots. Meanwhile, we stand by while the Kim mafia and their military family literally tortures to death the people of North Korea in death camps. What foreign policy legitimacy do we have left?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on August 26, 2013 at 8:43 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 23
@8 "The difficulty there is that Russia (and also China, I think) will reject any UN actions."

The only reason why Russia and China default oppose any intervention at all by states in any foreign affairs is because they themselves go out of their way to dick around with other states, and both have regimes that are only barely in control of their countries on the best of days. If the Chinese people were to rise up the party would have basically nothing to do but get swept away. Russia is a whole other level of historical nuttery.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on August 26, 2013 at 8:46 AM · Report this
sloegin 24
We might be the world's cop, but we're the worlds cop that breaks down the wrong door and shoots the family dog.
Posted by sloegin on August 26, 2013 at 8:47 AM · Report this
delirian 25
@15: What is your military plan of action for this invasion? Will they greet us a liberators? Or will hundreds of thousands of people get killed while we get mired fighting insurgents for a decade?

What is the size of the force you would recommend sending in? The initial reports for occupying Iraq recommended a force of over 300,000 troops. Bush and Cheney were stupid and thought we could do it on the cheap with a little over 100,000. Syria is a little smaller, so perhaps 250,000? And where would you stage the invasion? Israel? Turkey? Jordan? And what is the probability of an insurgency developing? Or maybe you just want to hit them with airstrikes and Tomahawk missiles? What will be our losses with Syria's air defenses? What do you think Russia's and China's role in this conflict would be? Oh, and how do we pay for it?
Posted by delirian on August 26, 2013 at 8:50 AM · Report this
C'mon, people! Doesn't anyone question the source of this info ("a senior Obama administration official said")? Moreover, "very little doubt"???? Remember Colin Powell? Condi Rice?

Here's what the Russian foreign minister had to say:

"They cannot produce evidence, but keep on saying that the 'red line' has been crossed and they cannot wait any longer...

The use of force without the approval of the United Nations Security Council is a very grave violation of international law...

If anybody thinks that bombing and destroying the Syrian military infrastructure, and leaving the battlefield for the opponents of the regime to win, would end everything - that is an illusion."
Posted by cheakamus on August 26, 2013 at 8:55 AM · Report this
delirian 27
@17: You are worried that if we don't act then people will say that the emperor has no clothes, right? But the emperor does have clothes and aircraft carriers, and submarines, and B-2 bombers, and cruise missiles, etc. Obama went too far with the red line. But the US still has the ability to act. If we choose not to act because our actions would cause more harm, we aren't hypocrites. Obama will be embarrassed and lose face. Too bad, that's his job.
Posted by delirian on August 26, 2013 at 8:59 AM · Report this
YakHerder 28
I'd be shocked if we aren't already taking (covert, para-)military action there right now.
Posted by YakHerder on August 26, 2013 at 8:59 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 29
#2 Starts off on the wrong foot already, but otherwise makes a decent point. Syria is the "enemy" ? WTF? What JUST WHAT has Syria done to America that Syria is the Enemy of America? Every nation has the right to defend itself, so if one says Syria funds Hezbu-allah, keep in mind America funds Israel. Tit for Tat shit. That's not enough to call a name an enemy.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on August 26, 2013 at 9:01 AM · Report this
@26, are you suggesting the videos of all those dead and dying gas attack victims are some sort of canard?
Posted by GermanSausage on August 26, 2013 at 9:01 AM · Report this
Pithy Name 31
@26 - Russia's got a conflict of interest when it comes to Syria, since they have been making money supplying arms to the government there. So I'd take any criticism/skepticism they have with a Siberian-sized grain of salt.…
Posted by Pithy Name on August 26, 2013 at 9:04 AM · Report this
delirian 32
@29: I'm not calling Syria our enemy, I'm saying that you use the military on an enemy. Perhaps there are other words to use (foe, opponent, adversary), but I'll stick with that one. If we attack Syria, they will be our enemy at that point.
Posted by delirian on August 26, 2013 at 9:04 AM · Report this
Gurldoggie 33
This is an ugly ugly ugly situation, and nothing the US can do will make it any prettier. In fact, as awful as it is now, sending in our troops will likely make it worse. Not to mention involving our armed forces in yet another unwinnable war. Stay the fuck out of Syria.
Posted by Gurldoggie on August 26, 2013 at 9:22 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 34
This comment thread was done @ 1.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on August 26, 2013 at 9:41 AM · Report this
Dr. Z 35
@21: the NBC treaty is irrelevant here, Syria never signed that treaty. Even when the US signed it we stated that we would not be bound by all of its provisions. And on no account could a military intervention be legally justified by appealing to the NBC treaty. Intervention could be authorized by the UN Security Council but Russia and China would both veto it. Syria isn't attacking a NATO country, so that treaty is out too.

Obama could legally intervene under US law if Congress authorized it under the War Powers Act, which seems unlikely, and even then there would still be no legal justification under international law.
Posted by Dr. Z on August 26, 2013 at 9:44 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 36
#32 If America does not call Syria its enemy, why attack it? Syria to date has done nothing to America worthy of vilification. If America makes the first move, Syria is the enemy? WTF? If you attack me first, hit me in the face, I am the Enemy? I think something here is backward. Or the attacker is mentally ill.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on August 26, 2013 at 9:52 AM · Report this
"What's the point in wasting a trillion dollars and thousands of lives there?"

Because most of that trillion dollars would end up with Halliburton and other US companies.
They sell their "services" to the US government at very lucrative rates.

Am I the only liberal here who is going to ask why the only options are invasion or no invasion?
How about we put a price tag on an invasion (use Iraq and Afghanistan for examples) and then see if there is some other way to spend that much money over that many years that would result in more benefits to the people of Syria?
With better accounting of the expenditures?

"It's going to continue to be a shithole whether we intervene or not."

I agree.
Nothing we do will turn it into a democracy in the next 10 years.
An invasion might be able to make it better for some.
But it is more likely that an invasion would make it even worse.

Is there a better way to spend that much money?
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on August 26, 2013 at 10:11 AM · Report this
Fnarf 38
On whose behalf are we going to intervene? The people fighting the regime are as bad or worse than Assad. They're Al Qaeda, basically. The ordinary people of Syria don't have a representative on either side.
Posted by Fnarf on August 26, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Cascadian 39
International law should mean something. Syria did not sign the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 (and has not ratified the Biological Weapons Convention it signed in 1972). But it *did* sign the original Geneva Protocol on chemical and biological weapons. However, that protocol does not prohibit the use of chemical weapons inside a country's own borders. Legally speaking, they are not in violation of any agreements AFAICT. So military action from outside forces is unwarranted, whether within the UN or outside of it, absent an act of war by Syria.

But that doesn't mean we have to trade with them or continue to deal with them diplomatically, or that we can't unilaterally punish them for their refusal to abide by international norms. We should hold out reconstruction and other humanitarian aid for any future government willing to sign these agreements. We should support efforts for a reconciliation and national unity government that includes all parties and groups in Syria that are not associated with the use of chemical weapons. But we should not take sides based on the use of chemical weapons, regardless of what the President said previously.

Now, if a case for genocide is made at some point, we should intervene long enough to stop it. I don't think it's at that point, but it's certainly a possibility.
Posted by Cascadian on August 26, 2013 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 40
What everyone said.

No No No No No No No No No No.

The middle east is a waste of scarce military resources, just to prop up the EU's fuel supply.

Adapt or die.

Including Syria.
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 26, 2013 at 11:05 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 41
@21 technically, we are in violation of those treaties ourselves.

We store dual chemical nerve agents, each of which are not weapons, but when combined become such weapons.

We just don't use them.

Kind of like our nukes.
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 26, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Report this
sirkowski 42
Drone Assad.
Posted by sirkowski on August 26, 2013 at 11:20 AM · Report this
@1 No. Syria was a jewel. Aleppo is/was incredible. Damascus is (one of) the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world- older and in some ways more beautiful than Rome.The country side in Syria is lush and beautiful with amazing food traditions going back millennia. The entire coutry should be a World Heritage Site. It is filled with history. That's what makes this a monumental tragedy.

Basically. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about and have never been there. Which comes as no surprise.
Posted by tkc on August 26, 2013 at 11:48 AM · Report this
I think where we need to spend serious cash is in support of the refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. It's the civilians who are suffering the most by far.
Posted by palamedes on August 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Report this
WTF Slog poll takers? Seriously, after the biggest military debacles in US history, 33% of you think we should get involved in something equally as crazy? We need to stay far, far away.
Posted by shotsix on August 26, 2013 at 11:53 AM · Report this
@45, Iraq was a debacle, Libya was a success. Difference being responsible adults were in charge during Libya.
Posted by GermanSausage on August 26, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 47
I'm conflicted, but ultimately say no for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the Republicans would never allow Obama to have a successful war. Can you imagine their horror? They'd do everything they could to sabotage him every step of the way. They're not going to allow Obama to become known as a competent military commander and will do everything including and especially everything they accused "the left" doing back when Bush was mishandling his wars to ensure it.

The republicans have no honor and have been shown repeatedly to put their own interests ahead of the interests of the country. This war would be no different and we shouldn't give them the opportunity. Too many lives are at stake.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on August 26, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
Fnarf 48
Another hallmark of US war policy, and in particular popular views of that policy, is that the US is the only really important actor in the world, and everybody else is just waiting to see what we do, and when we decide it'll all be settled.

We see this in Egypt, where people argue about things like whether we should cut off aid or not -- as if our aid mattered much; other countries give ten times as much to Egypt, both militarily and for stuff like food (most of Egypt would have starved to death if it wasn't for Saudi Arabia and others).

Now we're seeing it in Syria. Assad is a bad guy -- look, chemical weapons! We know that. But the war-clamorers have no clue who the actors in Syria are. And as a result, we are certain to get an outcome that is not only bad for us but bad for the people we're trying to help. It will be totally unexpected, as America is constantly being surprised by foreign events.

In short, if we bomb Assad, we're going to get a shocker, like we did in Iran (though Iran is on Assad's side in this case). We're going to get a hyper-militarized Syria with an Al Qaeda agenda, and a hundred other wars as well. I know the Republicans have been itching for war with Iran for years now; I don't like to see liberals falling into the same trap.

As for "chemical weapons", they're stupid. They're good at terrorizing people and at mobilizing stupid people in America into action, but they're worthless military weapons. You can kill ten times as many people with old-fashioned guns and bombs, at much less cost and infinitely less blowback. Remember WWI? My granddad was gassed by the Germans in the Ardennes -- but most of the victims of WWI gassing were soldiers on their own side. Western powers didn't stop gassing because of morals or treaties; they stopped because gas is counterproductive. It doesn't work.

In Syria, you're getting the pictures of the victims laid out, but that's because when they lay out the bodies of gas victims, people look. When they were laying out the bodies of the previous hundred thousand dead, nobody wanted to see.
Posted by Fnarf on August 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
delirian 49
@46: Don't read to much into Libya. Libya has a quarter the population of Syria. Libya also had a competent rebellion and Gaddafi gave up his WMDs. And Libya wasn't being supplied by Iran. Let's not pretend that since we have new leaders that the same stupid plans that caused the Iraq quagmire will finally work! They won't. If you want to pacify Syria you will need a quarter of a million boots on the ground working for years while simultaneously fighting off Russian, Iranian, and jihadi influences.
Posted by delirian on August 26, 2013 at 12:41 PM · Report this
The sad truth is with the end of the cold war, Syria has become something like an orphan state--it's in nobody's national interests to intervene. Even Russia's standing by Assad doesn't to much for their interests except to show their other clients that they can be a loyal friend.

And Syria is no Libya. Libya's military was a joke and only existed to ensure Gaddafi would stay in power. They folded so quickly because they weren't really designed to defend the country. Syria has been readying for war with Isreal for decades--they are the real deal. Sub launched cruise missiles will not get the job done, it would take a massive occupation force to put the lid back on.

As sad as the deaths of Assad's victims are, I just don't understand why so many people are eager to put young Americans in harm's way, especially since there doesn't appear to be any truly strategic national interest at stake.
Posted by Westside forever on August 26, 2013 at 1:29 PM · Report this
"As sad as the deaths of Assad's victims are, I just don't understand why so many people are eager to put young Americans in harm's way, especially since there doesn't appear to be any truly strategic national interest at stake."

Because politically connected companies such as Halliburton make a lot of money off of wars.
The media is "debating" the war because violence sells.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on August 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
sissoucat 52
US shouldn't bomb nor get involved on the ground.

They don't have such a clean record in the places where they've intervened lately, do they ? It will be again indiscriminate killing of civilians, bombing of children and women, crimes against humanity, you name it. The American soldier thinks so highly of himself and of the US that he/she can't be asked to respect anything foreign nor civilian. Hell, the American soldier doesn't even respect his own civilian countrymen ! Don't you remember the utterly shocking images of the army in NO right after Katrina ? They were geared like an invading force, not like a rescue operation. In Europe when the army rescue our people after a catastrophe, the soldiers leave the weapons and the heavy machinery at the base !

And worse than the American soldier, there are the American security contractors who come on their tail and who exploit and commit the worse abuses against the populations.

No, never again. The US should help with the intervention infrastructure, they're quite proficient at this, with the diplomacy also, but let European, African and Arab countries get involved with the fighting, or lack of fighting if they can manage it.
Posted by sissoucat on August 27, 2013 at 8:06 AM · Report this
camlux 53
Syria has never been our ally. They have long been an ally of the Soviet Union (and then Russia) and other Arab states. Despite all the terrible images of dead people, this is not our fight. I simply don't care enough to spend our money and our lives to intervene. Let them work it out.
Posted by camlux on August 27, 2013 at 2:17 PM · Report this
I don't understand why every media outlet seems to be treating this as though it's an isolated question of either taking military action or not, without talking about the bigger picture. What about putting pressure on Russia to suspend its financial aid and sale of weapons to Syria, just as a for instance? Some congressmen were talking trade sanctions over Snowden. Surely this is a bigger deal, regardless of what you think about that guy.
Posted by pemulis on August 29, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy