Work toward peace, not conflict

William C. Bailey Guest Columnist

September 10, 2013

In just a few days we’ll be hitting the 12th anniversary of 9/11. It seems like a lifetime has passed in those 12 years. In the years since that fateful September day the world has changed in ways that on Sept.10 of that very same year we would have thought unimaginable.

We have increased the surveillance society at least two to four fold. We have added multiple government agencies. We have devoted billions upon billions to fight terrorism in both domestic policing and foreign engagements, including two wars which to some degree still continue to this day more than a decade past starting.

We have launched drone strikes, created no fly zones, grown suspicious of neighbors, tried to stifle dissent and been fearful of color coded terror alerts, which then gave way to anger then apathy. This country which came together in ways unlike how we had ever seen quickly after those attacks, not since Pearl Harbor anyway, which then gave way to what is arguably one of the bitterest divides since the pre- and post-civil war era.

It doesn’t appear that things are getting better anytime soon either. As the days wind down towards the anniversary of that fateful day we are now embroiled in a debate about possibly involving ourselves into another Middle Eastern conflict, a full blown civil war in the nation of Syria.

As the debate rages in the halls of congress and the American public through all forms of media and communication, two things are becoming very clear:

1. President Obama seems to be (at least most of the time) ready to intervene.

2. The majority of the American people are completely opposed.

The claims of a chemical attack just last month appear to be the impetus of impending U.S. intervention with our administration blaming the attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime while others around the world are not convinced or blame rebel factions.

Secretary of State John Kerry has made the case along with others that it is imperative that we act to send a message, while others have made it clear they want more, to be specific, a regime change. I think this is to be mild a horrible idea to intervene. And I’ll outline a few reasons as to why:

1. The United States should only act militarily when the peace and security of the United States is threatened by an imminent threat. Or do so only in the defense of or retaliation of an attack, and outside of those last examples we must have approval of both houses of the congress to act militarily. While President Obama may very well win approval for authorization to use our military there has been very ambiguous language used as to whether they will follow the wishes of congress if they don’t vote to authorize. Also, even if congress does approve the authorization it will be so against the wishes of the majority of the population who overwhelmingly oppose military action. This will only push our nation into even further bitter and divisive.

2. The jury is still out for a lot of people on who even used chemical weapons. Secretary of State Kerry is emphatic that the evidence is clear and without refutation. However it seems we have been down that road before just a decade back. The smart thing to do would be to lobby for a more thorough investigation into who actually used chemical weapons. This would require the United States to stand down.

3. The possibility or more likely the probability of further destabilizing a country already torn is very real. The missile launches touted by our own government will, by their own admission, be limited in scope and effectiveness… There’s no guarantee they will even lessen the capacity to use chemical weapons. There’s also a chance that if Assad has already used them that it will embolden him to do so again instead of deterring him from further use. Also, if one of the rebel groups were the ones that used chemical weapons and we in turn retaliate against the regime it may encourage them to do so again. There’s not a good scenario there either way we go.

4.) We are actually saying that some Syrians killed some Syrians and we propose to kill some more to make the situation better. This really doesn’t need much explaining does it?

5.) Seeing as limited strikes will obviously not accomplish anything, what happens when we put troops into Syria? Do we have to look far into the past to see the power vacuums created in other countries where we have intervened to topple a monster only to be replaced with a mob of monsters?

6.) There’s no clear successor to Assad if we did support a regime change. We saw what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt when one government is pushed out and the rush to fill the power vacuum is filled by Islamists. Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front are already flowing into Syria from other countries to take part in this civil war and some estimates are that they are eclipsing the FSA components in the Syrian opposition. This would be akin to supporting groups in one country that we are fighting in another. This defies logic and common sense.

7.) Russia, Iran and possibly more countries are poised to join in this conflict if we do. This has the possibility of spiraling into a much larger conflict instead of a civil war in Syria. And however brutal it may be, and there’s no disagreement the war has been brutal, a war that will bring in more nations will be even more so brutal and destructive. There needs to be containment not escalation.

8.) The humanitarian crisis that is now overwhelming will become even worse. A fair estimate of the refuges would be at least 1 million and possibly even 2 million displaced Syrians because of the civil war. You couple that with over 100,000 causalities, I’m not sure how proposing escalation would seek to end this conflict or make the lives of Americans and Syrians better off.

9.) There’s no clear strategy. America should never involve itself militarily without meeting the criteria I outlined in point number one. And even if the criteria are met or not we should never go into a conflict without fully committing to win and have clear cut goals and a clear cut plan. It’s rather vague and ambiguous that we have either of those right now.

10.) Though we should not involve our military into this crisis we should however be seeking to end the conflict and ease the suffering. We can do this without bombs and missiles. There’s a tremendous humanitarian crisis that we could help out with. There are also many acts of diplomacy and negotiation we could be engaged in to push these most of these sides into a cease fire and allow for weapons inspectors. We could also press for sides to stop arming Assad and we along with others could push for sides to stop arming the rebel factions. This may be already under the way without much fanfare and if so thanks are to God. If not, then it must proceed as quickly as possible.

Time and time again history has proved that the policy of replacing these dictators with someone we want to be friendly to us is a recipe for backfire and disaster. We can go back to Operation Ajax in the Middle East on up to present day. We almost always back someone who is seen as a reformer who ends up being the tyrant and then we end up proposing to topple them in favor of someone else. The cycle is repetitive lunacy. In fact it fits the definition of insanity.

This October will be over 50 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world was on the brink of armed conflict on a mass scale once again. Conflict here was avoided by cooler calmer heads. When others wanted to invade Cuba President John F Kennedy refused and refused to accept that as the only option. In that day peace and calmness prevailed, and this was in a situation where the United States was directly and imminently threatened. My prayer is that cooler and saner heads prevail here. My hope is that those who occupy the seats of power and leadership try to work towards a greater peace instead of expanding conflict. I suppose that we all do.