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11 Reasons Why We Should Not Attack Syria

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opednews.com Headlined to H1 8/30/13

Reprinted from Yes! Magazine

Remember the last time we were told military strikes were needed because a Middle Eastern despot had used weapons of mass destruction?


Syrian children photographed in June 2013 in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Photo by  Patrick Nicholson Caritas Internationalis/CAFOD/Flickr .

As U.S. political and media leaders prepare for military strikes against Syria, the parallels to the lead-up to the war with Iraq should give us pause. Weapons of mass destruction, we are told, are being used by a cruel Middle Eastern despot against his own people. A military strike is inevitable, media voices say; we must respond with missiles and bombs. The arguments sound all too familiar.

There are a great many differences between circumstances in Syria and Iraq, of course. Nonetheless, critics warn that, much as it did in Iraq, a military incursion here could have disastrous consequences. Here are 11 reasons the United States should stay clear of military action: Meanwhile, weapons inspectors from the United Nations are on the ground investigating evidence of chemical weapons. But U.S. and European leaders are looking at an immediate strike anyway -- although Britain's Labor Party, still smarting from popular opposition to its leading role in the invasion of Iraq, has successfully pressed for a hold on military action until the results of the U.N. investigation are in.

1. We don't actually know who is behind the chemical weapons attack. An attack employing chemical weapons took place in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21 and killed 355 people, according to Doctors Without Borders. Obama administration officials say the attack was carried out by the Syrian regime, but Institute for Policy Studies analyst Phyllis Bennis points out we haven't actually been given evidence that this is the case. And, while it's unlikely that the opposition was behind the attack, NPR has pointed out that the rebels have an incentive to use such weapons to trigger outside intervention and end the stalemate they've been stuck in since late 2011.

2. A military strike would be illegal under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution. U.S. military attacks can only be carried out by an act of Congress, unless there is national emergency created by a direct attack upon the United States. The fact that Congress has adjourned doesn't change that. "There is no provision in the Constitution or the War Powers Resolution for a 'recess war,'" says Robert Naiman, writer for Just Foreign Policy. If it was a true emergency, Congress could be called into session to pass a declaration of war.

3. It would violate international law, too. Syria has not attacked the United States, and there is no U.N. Security Council authorization for a strike on Syria. It wouldn't be the first time the United States has violated international law, but doing it again adds to a damaging precedent and contributes to a lawless world.

4. The American people oppose it. Sixty percent of Americans oppose intervention in Syria, according to a recent Reuters poll. Just nine percent support intervention. Even if the use of chemical weapons is proven, just 25 percent of Americans would support intervention.

5. Violence begets violence. According to Stephen Zunes, chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, military interventions actually worsen and lengthen violence in the short term. "Countries whose dictatorships are overthrown by armed groups ... are far more likely to turn into new dictatorships, often accompanied by ongoing violence and factionalism," Zunes says in an article in Foreign Policy in Focus. In the long term, he writes, interventions only reduce violence if they are impartial, which would certainly not be the case in any upcoming conflict in Syria.

6. Foreign intervention will deepen nationalist support for the Syrian Baath Party and the Assad regime. Zunes also reports that hundreds of members of the Syrian Baath Party, a key source of support for Assad, have left the party in outrage over the regime's killing of nonviolent protesters. But, he says, "few defections could be expected if foreigners suddenly attacked the country." U.S. intervention would play into the hands of the Syrian regime, triggering an outpouring of nationalist support for Damascus. The same thing happened in 1983-84 following U.S. Navy air attacks on Syrian positions in Lebanon, he says, and in 2008 after U.S. army commando raids in eastern Syria.

7. There are no logical targets. Bombing stockpiles of chemical weapons would be untenable, since many would release poison gases into densely populated neighborhoods, according to Zunes. And there are too many ways of delivering chemical weapons -- planes, missiles, mortars, and so on -- to eliminate all of them.

8. It will be impossible to control who benefits from Western interventionamong the rebels. The Pentagon estimates that there are between 800 and 1,200 rebel groups currently active in Syria, according to USA Today. Among them are ones with avowed affiliations with Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other groups the United States considers to be terrorists. While the House Intelligence Committee has said it's ready to accept the risk of providing weapons to such groups, a look at the Iraq and Afghanistan shows how such plans can easily unravel. 

9. Civilians will be killed and maimed. Policy analyst Phyllis Bennis points out the obvious: Strike with bombs and missiles, and, whatever your intent, civilians with no involvement in the conflict -- including children and the elderly -- will be harmed.

10. There is no apparent exit strategy. Once we are involved, it is unclear how we will extract ourselves from a massive, ugly civil conflict that could spread to involve nearby countries such as Lebanon, Israel, and Iran.

11. Yes, there is a better way. Tried, true, and boring though it may be, diplomacy often works. As Bennis told Democracy Now! this week, Syria has become a venue for a war between the United States and Russia, and between Iran and an allied United States and Israel.

What's needed, she says, are peace talks involving not only the parties who are fighting, but their backers as well. We need "all the forces on the two sides coming together to talk," she says, "rather than fighting to the last Syrian child, to resolve these wars."

 

Sarah van Gelder is co-founder of YES! Magazine and has been its executive editor since it began publication in 1996. Her focus at YES! is on the solutions and innovations that address the most profound issues of our time. Each issue of YES! (more...)
 

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The 12 reason to not attack Syria or it's people i... by Deborah Dills on Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 9:48:17 PM
The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy by Unknown... by Deborah Dills on Friday, Aug 30, 2013 at 10:07:07 PM
Yes, Deborah, you are absolutely correct. The prob... by revzef on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 3:59:30 PM
Those who share the point of view of Iranian relig... by mhenriday on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 2:33:03 PM
Bombing Assad would solve nothing. I think your he... by jeff Kear on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 5:08:20 PM
Why complicate the issue, keep it simple and just ... by James Cumbie on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:04:17 PM
This is how the new World War is being fired on an... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, Sep 1, 2013 at 12:47:14 PM
This is a welcome (and rare) discussion of civilia... by Martha Moffett on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 3:51:22 PM
~ I appreciate your article above. Wish ... by Peta-de-Aztlan on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 7:12:30 PM
Why complicate the issue, keep it simple a... by James Cumbie on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:00:55 PM
In fact the malcontents in Syria are of an extremi... by John Lake on Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:23:55 PM
...and it is NOT Syria...read these articles: Don... by j taylor on Sunday, Sep 1, 2013 at 12:55:12 AM
SYRIAN "ANTI-AL-ASSAD" TERRORISTS CONFESS TO AN AP... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, Sep 1, 2013 at 12:50:33 PM