If you haven’t been distracted by Miley Cyrus twerking on Beetlejuice at the VMAs recently, you’ve probably heard how the shit has finally hit the fan in Syria.
Right now, things seem to be shaping up in such a way that the Obama administration is pushing strongly for, if they can’t get UN Security Council approval, at least unilateral missile strikes against military targets in Syria. The rationale behind this is of course the allegations that the Assad regime is employing chemical weapons indiscriminately in an effort to wipe out the “insurrection,” though there’s still no definitive evidence that the chemical attacks originated from Assad loyalists at this moment.
The argument for intervention, according to the executive branch anyway, is that the global taboo against using chemical weapons is so strong that it needs to be addressed decisively. Launching military strikes against the alleged perpetrators of the chemical attacks would send a strong message that behavior like that is simply not to be tolerated, and that neglecting to address the issue would both erode the legitimacy of the United States on an international scale while also setting a dangerous precedent for more chemical weapon strikes in the future. For the most part this rationale seems honest and transparent in that it combines self-interest and a desire to provide for public safety on a global scale.
As important as these goals are, is it really something the United States should be doing right now? We’re already in the throes of serious budgetary concerns thanks to runaway spending – the majority of which has originated from years of military action overseas – and the economic health of the country is definitely anemic. More public sector spending on smart bombs, cruise missiles, and drone strikes is simply digging that hole even deeper. An additional argument against military strikes is that the risk of collateral damage is too high, especially in the muddied ideological climate that is Syria right now. Launching attacks on Syrian targets could lead to even more civilian casualties, which is like pouring kerosene on a fire in an attempt to put it out; it could very well lead to even more international anger and hatred towards the US, which in turn could expose us to more dangers and then, in a vicious circle, end up with us committing to more military actions.
I’m not saying that the perpetrators of these chemical strikes shouldn’t be held accountable, as these attacks are indeed completely heinous and reprehensible. However we can’t just take matters into our own hands, and certainly not without hard evidence pointing to exactly who was responsible. Americans are incredibly gun-shy about committing to military action after the bait-and-switch the Bush administration pulled with the weapons of mass destruction that were supposedly being stockpiled in Iraq, and as a populace we’re incredibly skeptical of the Obama administration possibly attempting to pull the wool over our eyes a second time.
My heart aches for the victims of the Syrian civil war. Whether they’re casualties of the most recent chemical attacks or if they’ve been living in terror for years as the internecine fighting rages on, no one should live in a country torn by war and violence. Maybe we should consider the best ways to help the Syrian people caught up in these horrors without having to worry about whether our government is working all the angles to further its ideological goals. True compassion does exist, but it seems that just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no altruists in Washington.