Polls and surveys of the American people show very little support for a punitive strike against Syria, and members of Congress seem reluctant to endorse such a move. Neither has the international community rallied around the idea.
The president has the authority under the War Powers Act to order the strikes without Congressional authorization, but he argued that “in the absence of a direct threat to our security” Congress needed to consider whether to initiate a military action against Assad’s government.
We strongly question the use of military action against anyone “in the absence of a direct threat to our security.” Assad is no friend of the United States, but he has taken no provocative action against our nation or our allies. The admonition of our founding fathers to avoid foreign entanglements sounds like pretty good advice right now.
But we do have to wonder about Secretary of State John Kerry’s slip of the tongue about Syria surrendering its chemical weapons to avoid a strike. That was seized upon rather quickly by Russia, and now the Syrian government is even talking about joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.
Russia and Syria are allies, and there is the possibility that they are using that idea as a tactic to delay U.S. action long enough to put down the rebellion in Syria and keep Assad in power. If Assad’s forces use chemical weapons again, that would tend to validate the idea.
Another theory has been floated that Kerry’s comments were part of a grand design to achieve a diplomatic, rather than military, solution to concerns about Syria’s chemical stockpile. Recent contacts between President Obama and Vladimir Putin would have given them an opportunity to discuss such a strategy — essentially a “good cop, bad cop” scenario — to persuade Assad to give up those weapons. For that strategy to work, a credible threat of a U.S. military strike has to be on the table.
It’s not clear whether Assad will be able to end the rebellion, and radical Islamists in Syria and across the region could raise the stakes in worldwide terrorism with the deadly poisons in Assad’s arsenal. Russia has had its own problems with terrorism, particularly with acts carried out by Chechen rebels. Securing those weapons would play to Russia’s interests as well.
Rattling sabers is part of the game when dealing with dangerous nations, and we hope a diplomatic solution is reached.
But we fail to see justification for a military strike against a government that is not an imminent threat either to our nation or to our allies.