Sunday, September 01, 2013

It's Deja Vu All Over Again: Yet Another Demand For War

As so many have already pointed out, the march to war on Syria feels like deja vu, as if we are in the midst of a replay circa November 2002 when the drums began to beat, demanding war on Iraq.

All we are missing is a passionate demand by a high-ranking White House or Pentagon official in front of the United Nations asking for international blessing to proceed. This is probably only days away from happening; I'll be Colin Powell can give us a solid estimate on exactly when this will happen, given his previous experience with pawning similar hyperbole on the UN in November 2002.

The hypocritical nature of the demand for war cannot be ignored. We supported the Iraq regime under Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons. Decades later Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons is used as the justification for U.S. military intervention.

There are deaths. We cannot deny this. The situation is tragic. 

But we cannot justify our military intervention at this time.

Intelligence is unclear; the location of chemical weapons and the identity of the persons who may have deployed them is in question. Some reporting indicates rogue elements within Assad's government authorized use, others indicate Assad authorized, and yet more suggest a black flag operation to influence action against Assad. Unfortunately, neither the U.S. government nor its immediate allies in the region have proven themselves to be credible with regard to their methods of obtaining or disclosing intelligence, further exacerbating the "fog of war." Disinformation is far too easy to create and distribute in the absence of openness and sunshine.

Syria appears to be a proxy for another conflict between the U.S. and Russia, as well as other countries. While Syria has been far too cooperative and collaborative with Iran and North Korea with regard to development and proliferation of nuclear technology, threatening countries within reach of missiles, non-proliferation efforts could be far more focused and do not need the use of wider military intervention which might escalate and exacerbate the meta-level proxy war.

The White House has not presented adequate legal arguments to Congress for military intervention.

Existing AUMFs do not reasonably permit military intervention.

We do not have a global consensus to take action.

We have not exhausted other means of disrupting use of chemical weapons in Syria, whether they have been deployed by Assad, rogue elements, or resistance groups.

Without directly addressing these issues, any unilateral military intervention is illegitimate as well as ill-advised. If all of the issues including flawed intelligence were handled promptly and openly, there might be reason to support focused and limited, finite authorization for military intervention -- but not before then.

We should have learned something from Iraq, acquired knowledge from the deaths of soldiers and civilians who paid the ultimate price for American hegemony. At the very least we should have learned the true cost of war and that we cannot afford it without knowing exactly what it is we are buying.

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