Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On Syria

So it appears that the United States is likely to engage in airstrikes in Syria, in response to a recent chemical-weapons attack in Damascus. Predictably, there is much consternation from those who don't think the evidence is in yet or even that it was Assad's doing, despite the gut-wrenching video of civilians gasping for air (a video I don't even have the heart to link to), or the fact that the UN inspections team investigating on Assad's invitation was targeted by sniper fire, a development that usually does not equate to an inspected party that anticipates a favorable result. From those who have just gotten done with a decade of war in Iraq, are still not done with a decade-plus of war in Afghanistan, and who are simply weary of war and have no interest in being the world's policeman. From those worried- and Assad, for all his wrongs, has chosen well in stoking this particular fire- that any American military action in Syria, no matter how small, will trigger region-wide chaos and suck the United States into yet another quagmire. By those who can't understand what exactly Syria has to do with the United States at this moment in time. From those who would prefer a humanitarian response, in defiance of the fact that the only humanitarian response that has had any effect so far has been for Syrians to run for their lives.

They've been met, though, by those who have seen the video, and all the previous videos of the last 2 1/2 years, and simply cannot take it. By those who know that something must be done to save those Syrians that remain because Assad will not stop on his own and will not listen to anything but violence. By those who have watched the world look on with seeming apathy while a nation tears itself apart. By those who feel this to be a place where America must stand up for its ideals of freedom from oppression. By those who cannot understand why the world has waited as long as it has, and who have repeatedly been calling on President Obama to do what it appears he is about to do. By those who feel that the United States should not wait for another nation to take the lead, as they are all waiting for us.

The polls say we shouldn't go. Yet at the same time, the polls say we should.

What do you do?

There is no good solution here. There is no easy or obvious solution, and those that think one exists are oversimplifying the situation. There is no way Obama gets out of this issue without taking heavy fire. If he goes, he's a military-industrial-complex goon who's throwing his Nobel Peace Prize in the garbage while gearing up for The Next War. If he stays out, he's a heartless monster who's just standing by while a nation dies horribly, and will continue to be such until he gives up and goes in, at which point he's a warmonger. There's no in-between, no nuance, no shades of grey. He will be denounced as one, denounced as the other, and denounced as both.

The denunciations, I believe, are overblown. The issues, however, are not. All of the concerns are valid; none can be dismissed. And the avenues through which something can be done are rather few. A UN solution is out of the question, as Russia has stonewalled UN action the entire time and has in fact been in Assad's corner, and with US-Russia relations rather frosty, convincing Vladimir Putin to back off would be a tall task. Wanting another nation to take charge has seemingly been ruled out, as this appears to be an issue that everyone wants solved, but everyone wants it solved by someone else. Congress seems divided and not along party lines, but are citing the War Powers Act of 1973 as a reason to seek their approval first (though Presidents always seem to ignore it). And this leaves aside the issue of money. We are in a sequester, after all, but is money really a matter of import to those who can't stand to watch Syrians suffer any longer?

It's another one of those days they don't tell you about when they ask you to run for President. If you don't act, many will die. If you do act, fewer may die, but the risk is run of many more dying than would have died otherwise. Any option for 'nobody dies' involves going back in time and making the entire affair not happen in the first place. All options are bad, all options end in misery.

So what would I do?

I don't know. I'm just glad I don't have to make that decision.

No comments: