Monday, May 06, 2013

Should We Be Taking This Syrias?

It may, in fact, not be the Assad government using chemical weapons. It may actually be the rebels:

Carla del Ponte told Swiss TV there were "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof".

However, she said her panel had not yet seen evidence of government forces using chemical weapons.

This all sounds suspiciously, or eerily, depending on your point of view, like the Hans Blik/Scott Ritter warnings that Saddam Hussein possessed no chemical or biological weapons and that there was no evidence he was even trying to obtain them. In the building drumbeat towards committing war with Syria, including Israeli airstrikes over the weekend, a lone dissenter of not unsubstantial authority and credibility steps forward to try to thwart the onset of war.

Which of course puts Democrats and liberals in a quandary: for the past decade or so, we’ve been chiding neo-cons and their fellow travelers about committing what amounts to a war crime, ginning up false charges then invading a sovereign nation that, while her leader may have wished us harm, was in no position to do anything to harm us.

This warning even amps that by one: Blik and Ritter stated Hussein had none. Del Ponte is suggesting the other side is the tyrannical aggressor here.

Long-time readers of my writing know that I stand foursquare against nearly all wars: unless our very existence is threatened or we are under a clear diplomatic mandate (e.g. a pact like NATO – but even then, we ought to be holding back), we should not be committing combat troops anyplace, anytime, anyhow. So it will come as no surprise that I would oppose Barack Obama’s potential deployment of troops to Syria.

And yet, I don’t envy President Obama’s position here between Iraq and a hard case. It’s hard to stand idly by, even as a pacifist liberal as myself, and let citizens of a nation die from attacks by their own government using weapons banned by treaty.

And yet, I’m concerned about where this heads if we do commit troops. After all, there’s an uptick in confrontation in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, some of it involving rival Islamist factions it seems, that speak to treading very very carefully.

Which makes del Ponte’s report all the more vital for consideration. We clearly should not be treading in a place where both sides “do it.”

And yet, what happens in Syria might not stay in Syria. It certainly will spill over into Lebanon and Israel, and might spread into Jordan and Iraq. And from there? Who knows.