President Obama should not move too fast on Syria. The sudden US shift of policy from professing alleged neutrality (over the last two years and a half) to planning swift, “surgical” military action is unwise.
Before the rush to war, the US must wait for the United Nations team of inspectors to finish their report on the nature of the chemical weapons used.
While it may be relatively easy to determine that unlawful weapons were used, the perpetrators are not easy to identify with certainty, given the complexity of motivations and the abundance of misguided actors on the scene.
Washington has a record of ignoring international instruments of law and order when the judgment is inconvenient.
The White House should also give the UN Security Council a chance to make a statement on the issue. The argument that it is “illegal but moral” for Washington to attack Syria is flawed: Washington’s record on issues of peace and justice in the Mideast cannot be described as moral.
It also would be a mistake for the president to start military intervention in Syria before Congress has examined the problem and offered its deliberated recommendations. Congress is aware that 60 percent of Americans are skeptical about the utility of aggressive intervention in Syria’s civil war.
Even if the president chooses to minimize the significance of international and domestic opinion on the subject, he still has to assess the impact of military action on the recently activated peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Regardless of where Arab states stand on the Syrian conflict, the Arab people are largely opposed to any new military intervention on their soil. It is largely foreign fighters and extremist rebels in Syria who wish to involve the US militarily in their conflict.
Any type of US intervention in the Arab world is viewed as an American-Israeli partnership against the Muslim world. If the US attacks Syria, a regional war climate will emerge which would poison the atmosphere of dialogue on many Arab-American relations.
Such a war climate will also make dialogue with Iran on the nuclear crisis even more difficult. Syria is Iran’s closest ally. The hope that the new, relatively moderate president of Iran would offer better conditions for the anticipated nuclear talks would fade away, if Syria is viewed as a victim of Western aggression.
If Washington wishes to deliver a firm message to President Assad -- to halt the alleged use of chemical weapons -- there must be other ways to reach the Syrian leader than war. The Americans have used war before in Afghanistan and in Iraq to deliver similar “messages” against criminal behavior. The results were disastrous for Americans, Afghanis and Iraqis.
If the use of chemical weapons were ignored by Washington in the 1980s in Iraq , why are they considered a US red line in Syria today? The credibility of the messenger is a major factor in communication. There are recent reports, not yet confirmed, that the US looked the other way when Saddam Hussein launched chemical weapons on Iran in the Iran- Iraq war.
War is often a poor strategy of problem solving. It is hard to control the use of chemical weapons by shelling missiles from the sea or the sky. Loss of innocent life is unavoidable through a military strike. In fact, the history of “solving” problems through air strikes in the Middle East reveals a counterproductive outcome.
There are better ways to deal with Syria. What happened to US planning for Geneva 2, a peace conference for the Syrian conflict?
Obama should try to bring all sides to the peace table, rather than launch missiles, which will do more harm than good.