Strike on Syria?

Aaron Stipkovich
Aaron Stipkovich
AND Publisher, Aaron Stipkovich on assignment between Syria and Iraq. | Photo: Aaron Stipkovich | Link | Aaron Stipkovich, Syria, Iraq, Palmyra, Baghdad, Terrorism,

Going to war again blindly, stupidly, and maybe illegaly.

In response to an apparent chemical gas attack inside Syria, President Obama has ordered the repositioning of naval assets in preparation for possible US military intervention. Since the Syrian uprising against the government in the wake of the Arab Spring back in 2011, the situation has deteriorated into one of the most protracted and bloody civil wars in recent history.

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On top of the countless human rights violations perpetrated by the Assad Regime on rebels and the civilian population, a myriad of different groups within the rebel camp have emerged, many with conflicting agendas, and some capable of just as much barbarism as government forces. While the initial fight against Assad and his tyrannical government was just, and the ultimate goal of a free Syria is still a noble one, by no means can anyone argue that this is a cut and dry case of good vs. evil.

If the US intervenes in this conflict, it will essentially be supporting an amorphous mass of rebel groups, some of which are direct off-shoots of Al-Qaeda itself, the very enemy President Obama uses to justify his mass domestic spying and drone assassination programs. We already saw the depths some of these rebels were willing to go to in the satisfaction of their bloodlust, as a young rebel leader cut out and ate the heart of a dead government soldier. These may not be the sort of people we want to empower. Furthermore, it makes little sense that Assad would use chemical weapons in the way that has been alleged. Given President Obama's warning that the use of such weapons would constitute a "red-line" and imply some sort of intervention, it would not be in Assad's interest to deploy them. You might be thinking that perhaps Assad just doesn't care, is desperate, or does not think the US will actually intervene in the end. If all those things are true though, then why not just use the weapons to full effect and decimate the rebels once and for all?


This points to the frightening possibility that it was a rebel group that used chemical weapons as a means to implicate the Assad regime, knowing full well that it could mean the sort of Western intervention that could tip the tide of battle in their favor. Of course this is just speculation, but the Russians have already made a similar case themselves. While I am not one for trusting what comes out of the Putin regime, it is at least something worth considering, especially given what we know about what some rebel groups are willing to resort to in their fight against the government.

Beyond troubling considerations in regards to the rebels, there are serious questions on the constitutionality and appropriateness of President Obama's military options. While mainstream media outlets are busy getting all worked up for the potential ratings bonanza a new war will bring, dolling out all the typical military analysts to give us tantalizing speculations on how cruise missile and drone strikes on Assad's forces could play out, no one seems to be asking if President Obama even has the authority to launch a strike in the first place. How far have we fallen into the abyss of an unchecked executive that the President does not even bother to play the congressional authorization game anymore?

Much like what happened with the 2011 intervention in Libya, it seems President Obama believes he can take us to war with Syria at will, without even consulting the representatives of the American people. Presumably, the President and his team of legal con artists think that "commander in chief" means he can use the military any way he wants if there is an "imminent threat". While there is precedent going all the way back to Jefferson that the President does have the authority to order the military to act in cases of imminent danger to the country, the situation in Syria, or what happened in Libya, do not in any way shape or form imply an imminent threat to the actual United States. Further, given that according to White House drug induced legal reasoning, "imminence" does not imminent at all but rather something that could happen at some point, we might want to be skeptical of that argument presented in this case.

The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime on civilians would represent an unacceptable war crime that should be opposed by the international community, and it may be that we should intervene militarily in order to save thousands of lives. Yet there is no good reason why the President could not call an emergency session of congress and ask for authorization. The founders were wise enough not to entrust war making powers to one man, and so they made it a requirement that only congress could declare war, presumably with the implicit consent and support of the American people that would have to possibly fight and die in such wars. Of course you might argue that since the current military options include limited cruise missile or drone strikes; that American lives will not be risked and thus full congressional approval is not needed. Aside from the problematic notion that we should only question wars when Americans are in danger, and not the civilians that are always killed as "collateral damage" in strikes of this nature, there is always the possibility that a "limited" war will not stay limited for very long. Few people probably thought small teams of "advisors" in Vietnam could turn into over 50,000 dead American soldiers and some 2 million dead Vietnamese, but such an escalation occurred. Although we needn't even think that far back given that in the last decade a "quick" invasion of Iraq and "mission accomplished" turned into a debacle we have yet to fully resolve.

As a kid, I once dreamed of going off to places like Syria and helping some ragtag bunch of rebels in their fight for freedom against a despotic and cruel ruler. I thought I could be part of some good fight and that our technology and training would ensure only the bad guys got hurt. I was inspired by people like John McCain, who went on TV and talked about how we needed to stop Milosevic from butchering the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and cheered as the bombs fell on Belgrade. I mostly agreed with the Neocon vision of an American power used in the defense of democracy and after 911 I joined the National Guard to get some training, go to college and become an officer to be part of that grand fight for freedom. As I read more, thought more, questioned more, and got a taste of what the military was really like, as well as what it could realistically accomplish, it became painfully clear to me that my na?ve notions of US military might were beyond deluded.

I am still hard on myself for falling into that, but then again I was just an 18 year old kid with no clue when 911 happened and barely 20 when I joined the military. What in the hell then is the excuse of 4 star generals, presidents, national security advisers, and congressmen, all with decades of experience when they still think we can save the world by the barrel of a gun? I'm not against war, and I would gladly put on a uniform again and serve my country, but we need to start growing up when it comes to foreign policy and stop acting like foolish hot-headed teenagers whose ideas of war are based on 90s action movies and GI-JOE cartoons.

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Updated May 22, 2018 6:39 PM UTC | More details


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