Let me start by saying in all humility, I have no idea. I have no idea what the President should do (or not do) about Syria whatsoever. I think there are solid arguments on both sides, and I can’t seem to settle on one despite all the thinking and trying.
Is a military strike a good thing? History will tell you more often than not, the answer is “no.” Notable exceptions would be Kosovo in the 90’s and arguably Libya in 2011. It is more than fair to say that our history of conflict in the Middle East has not benefited our own domestic or international priorities. Throw in the possibility that the effort could lead to more civilian casualties and not less–as well as the general war weariness of our country–and it’s not hard to see why it might be the better bet to do nothing at all.
However, we should not pretend that doing nothing is without risk too. Not so much a strategic or political risk (although that could be argued too), but a moral one. I’m sure some are saying, “how could NOT going to war be a moral issue?” Look at this way. Every morning, the President wakes up and gets his morning brief of all the bad shit in the world. Right now, the tip top of that pile of crap starts with pictures of dead and dying Syrians from the use of chemical weapons–many of them children. If you started out every morning looking at that, would you not feel compelled to do something about it? And if you didn’t how would you sleep? Remember, Bill Clinton’s greatest regret of his presidency was not intervening in Rwanda. Once again, that doesn’t mean a military campaign is the right decision, but you should be able to understand why someone might think that it would be. It is very hard to watch the systematic murder of innocents and do nothing when you are the most powerful man in the world.
Now I know that many are concerned this could develop into another Iraq, but I have to say, that comparison is driving me more than a little nuts. It seems we have developed a case of Iraq Tourette’s in this country. Every time there is a discussion of a possible conflict, one of the first things you will hear is “It will be another Iraq!” People said that about Libya too. Is anyone saying it now? It’s almost like Ted Cruz and Obamacare or Glenn Beck and Hitler. No matter what the President says or does, they will find a way to shoehorn their favorite reference in. We should be a little more discerning than that. Not every occurrence in life need be compared to the most extreme/awful example. Everything is not Iraq.
As I said before, there are more than enough legitimate concerns for people to take pause or disapprove. Many have complained that the President was intending to abuse the “War Powers Act” by going around congress. Of course, many who were doing the complaining would love for the President to do just that on the issues that matter most to them and are gridlocked in congress. Which brings me to my next point. While I am gratified that the President decided to allow congress to take a vote on military action, can you imagine the shit show we are headed for now? I mean really, have you been paying attention to this congress? Has there ever been a governmental body in the history of this country that would leave you with less confidence in their judgement than this one? And if you are President Obama, you better prepare for a shit swallowing siege of nonsense to come right down your throat the day the debate starts. Of course, it could be argued that every other day that ends in ‘Y’ is no different, so maybe we should expect the President to be used to it (easy for me to say). The best thing about it is it does make congress co-own the decision and get on the record. Something I bet many of them were secretly hoping not to have to do. I would go as far to say that many a pair of trousers was shat after he made the announcement to involve congress.
The one thing that has concerned me about this debate within the country and the media is how certain the opposing sides seem to be. Whether you are for or against, you do not have a crystal ball. Certainly, you can make out a cost/benefit/risk analysis and come out on either side of the argument. But if you are really contending that you know for certain how this is going to work out, then please explain to me how you are doing that. Are you a descendent of Nostradamus? Have you never been wrong a single time in your life? Can you travel through time? If so, I have a whole bunch of questions I want to ask you. Like, will Hillary run? What’s going to happen with the Keystone Pipeline? What is the mystical force that seems to be removing one of my socks from the dryer every week?
There is a great scene in one of my favorite movies, Moneyball, where Brad Pitt’s General Manager of the Oakland A’s explains to his scout that the science of projecting how good a baseball player will become is an inexact one.
“Okay! Okay. My turn. You don’t have a crystal ball, you can’t look at a kid and predict his future any more than I can. I’ve sat at those kitchen tables with you and listened to you tell those parents ‘When I know, I know! And when it comes to your son, I know.’ And you don’t. You don’t.”
That goes for more than baseball.