Sunday, September 1, 2013

The argument the non-interventionsts must make

President Obama has made his argument for military intervention in Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons. And he has once again said that he welcomes the debate.

It is now time for those who oppose this military intervention to make their case. I'll tell you what won't work: suggesting this is just like what Bush/Cheney did when they lied us into an invasion of Iraq. Rather than looking for an excuse to invade another country, we all know that President Obama has fought off advice to engage in Syria - even when it came from his closest national security advisors. This large-scale use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is what finally changed his mind. But even more importantly, President Obama is not talking about invading Syria - he's talking about an action that would be limited in scope and duration - with no boots on the ground. An argument against the President's proposal has to take that into account.

If those arguing against intervention want to make a case that they are non-violent pacifists who would speak out against ANY military intervention under any circumstances - including this one - I think that could be a strong case. But that argument must also deal with the consequences. It requires that we either ignore the criminal slaughter of civilians or develop alternative forms of resistance. No one gets a "pass" on these difficult questions.

Since President Obama has abandoned the "regime change" argument that drove so many of our military misadventures in the past and is instead making the argument based on the United Nation's Chemical Weapons Convention, liberals who believe that military intervention is sometimes appropriate have a harder case to make against this one.

I believe that the strongest case is the one that asks the pragmatic question: will it work to stop the use/spread of chemical weapons? I know that's the question I've been wrestling with. President Obama tried to assure us about that yesterday.
I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.
But short of making the operational details public, that is probably as far as he can go. So this is where the rubber meets the road for me. The argument I'll make to those who represent me in Congress is that their primary job is to determine the efficacy of these actions in reaching the goals President Obama has laid out. And yes, that involves some trust...that's why elections matter.


  1. Arguments against:
    1. Without UNSC approval an attack would be illegal according to international law.
    2. The US should submit its proof to the UNSC, the history of lies used to justify starting wars is distressing.
    3. Any intervention against Assad only benefits the al-qaeda affiliated opposition---al-Nusra and the foreign jihadist mercenaries.
    4. To actually control chemical weapons would require a massive intervention as described by Gen. Dempsey in his letter to Sen. Levin. This level of intervention risks a regional war and is unacceptable. The draft AUMF published in the WaPo is way to broad and could clear the way for an intervention as outlined by Dempsey.

    Instead of cancelling the peace talks in Geneva the US should be pushing toward their resumption.

    1. 1. Untrue
      2. In process
      3. Untrue
      4. Conjecture

      Commentary: been there...done that.

    2. Neither side is interested in peace or a "settlement."

      Peace talks are a waste of time.

      It's a cluster-frak and it's not going to change after the "rockets red-glare" but al-Asaaad and his puppet-masters, Russia, China and Iran, will have to take into consideration the US's stance on chemical weapons.

      That's it, period.

      Smartypants said it better but I had to get that in.

  2. Those that constantly say 'we are a nation of laws' need to come up w/a plan or strategy how we enforce the treaties we are a signatory to, since the one on CW is the law of the land.


  3. Good grief. Reading your blog is like reading my mind if I were much more eloquent. Your analysis is impeccable. I know this because I agree with you. ;-)

  4. I also appreciate that PBO has taken this decision to congress which puts the onus back in their court instead of them criticizing PBO. I think this sets a precedent for future presidents on reminding them about how congress is supposed to be the branch of government that approves war action.

    It also makes our allies take another look at what they think about this action. The Arab League has now met on this. The UN has yet to publish their observations but that's coming soon. All in all I think it is the most prudent, responsible thing that President Obama could have done in the face of a bad situation.

    This man plays 3 dimensional chess while everyone else is playing tiddlywinks.

    Thanks for the post SmartyP - tweeting!


  5. What the non interventionists need to do is ask how much lives and treasure have we wasted in the Middle East? The President has already asked that question.