Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Syrian Intervention: A Mission Without A Mandate

In their latest Congressional testimony about military action against the Syrian regime of President Assad, Secretaries Hagel and Kerry were reported by the Washington Post to have said,
"Our military objectives in Syria would be to hold the Assad regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks and deter it from further use of chemical weapons,” Hagel said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 
Kerry said such a strike would have a “downstream” effect of limiting President Bashar al-Assad’s conventional military capacity. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his goal would be to leave the regime weaker after any assault."

Holding a regime accountable is quasi-legal objective, not a military one.  Hitting and disabling the Syrian air force was the specific objective which appeared in the press over a week ago, and this certainly would have limited Assad's conventional military capacity, given some relief to rebel forces, and perhaps limited delivery options for chemical weapons; given the extended dithering, is the Syrian military really standing still and waiting on their runways for their Air Force to be destroyed?  Is this still a viable option?

Both officials made it clear that they are not asking for Congressional approval to "go to war."  That's nice, but it's also completely unclear what Congress is being asked to approve.

The argument about a pro-active strike showing commitment to the administration's support for "non-proliferation" of chemical weapons is laughable.  Were this the case, what substantive activities have been carried out through commercial, regulatory and diplomatic channels for the past six years?  None.

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who has personally seen thousands of his Syrian citizens injured and killed in the conflict argued against any outside military intervention as potentially leading to "a third world war."

His Holiness Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said,
“The acts of violence against Christians in Iraq, Syria and other areas may be interconnected. There is a kind of pressure on Christians in the Middle East, and a large proportion of Christians have already migrated from Iraq,” 
He believed that wars in the Arab world aim at fragmenting the region.
Despite the very large diaspora of Coptic Christians from Egypt, H.H. Pope Tawadros too cautioned against military interventions by outside interests which would cause more casualties, division and instability in the Middle East.

The Security Council in New York is holding both formal and informal consultations about proposed actions in Syria, even as President Obama is washing his own hands claiming the world, not he, has drawn a "red line" on Syria, whatever that means.  France and Russia are both calling for U.N. resolutions, which of course would be vetoed by Russia, anyway.

As much as we dislike the long-standing dictatorship of Syrian President Assad, America has not achieved any kind of constructive engagement with Syria, for a variety of reasons.  President Obama, without the clear support of his advisers or of his own party, beats the drums for action while saying "It's not my decision, the world wants action."  Christian leaders in the region who know first hand about the violence and killing are calling for prudence and restraint, as is Pope Francis.  There is nothing positive to be gained, at this point in time given the public dithering, from any military action against Syria, no matter how much parties agree about the inhumanity of the regime in power.

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