So, Syria. First of all let’s take a few of the more idiotic arguments off the table. No, you cannot claim hypocrisy for possible US involvement because the US turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980’s. Why, you ask? Because it’s not the same people making the decisions.
If you haven’t noticed, the people in charge of our government change rather frequently. Ok, so maybe not Congress, but the Presidency changes at least every 4 years or at most every 8 years. To compare what this administration has done to what a completely different administration did in the past is naive at best, asinine at worst. In short, drones are on the table; US taking Iraq’s side in their war with Iran is not. Different players at the table change the game.
Drones. Gotcha. Yeah, the policy surrounding drones stinks. Kind of hypocritical, I will give you that. Except, drones never targeted an entire civilian neighborhood. Civilians killed are collateral damage, not the target. War is messy. Fact is, there is no way to avoid civilian casualties in any war, regardless of weaponry used. Should we have done a lot of things? Probably not, but drones are, unfortunately (though there is some debate), a legal weapon of the world. Sarin gas is not. The use of chemical weapons against civilians violates international law. So far, US drone usage has not. At least, to our knowledge.
Second, the argument we shouldn’t get involved because one rebel soldier ate the heart of a Syrian government soldier. Disgusting, yes. War crime, yes. But here’s the thing, you cannot denigrate an entire rebel force for the actions of one guy. If that were acceptable our military would be screwed. To have the delusion that you can fight a war ‘civilly’ is beyond ridiculous. War crimes and crimes against humanity occur in any war. Most likely perpetrated by both sides. The trick—and it’s not easy, clean, or nice—is to find the less evil of the two (or three, or four). It sucks. Sometimes it really, really sucks. It may even weigh heavily on the conscience. And sometimes it should. This is why we teamed up with Stalin. Does that leave a nasty taste in your mouth? It should. Welcome to war, where nothing is black and white.
Third argument, 100,000 people are already dead but a chemical weapon hits and now we care? Mmmkay, it’s really not that simple. The moment Assad turned the military on his people the world spoke. For the last two years, actions against Syria have been brought to the UN. You know, the guys that actually are the world police. Of course, Russia and China have blocked every idea that came to the table. So, basically, we have spent two years trying to do the right thing through the UN. Didn’t work. Now, banned weapons have been used against a civilian population. Game changed. Rules changed.
Why? Because now dictators around the world are watching and waiting. Wondering if the world will allow Assad the use of these weapons. To do so would be a tragic apathy. To do nothing before was simply allowing a country to have a civil war. And the US cannot interject itself into every internal conflict. That is the UN’s job. However, if the US and decades of screwed up foreign policy continue to allow Syria to go unpunished that sends a message to the world that these weapons are okay to use. That they will be tolerated. By taking no action we essentially are giving our silent approval. Trust me, this is not the message we want to send to certain people (*cough*North Korea*cough*). To understand why the US is in this crazy ass position in the first place, you have to examine the last 80 years or so of foreign policy. That is a post of its own.
Sucks, right? Welcome to war and foreign policy. No matter what you do you are going to get royally screwed. You just need to predict which action or non-action will be judged less harshly by history. You know, so you don’t screw the guy that comes 30 years after you.
—It is not hypocritical for me to ask you not to view the US as a single entity rather than by each administration when the majority of the world views us as a single entity. Just because others view us as a single entity doesn’t mean we can do it too. Like how we shouldn’t judge Putin for things Stalin did. We need to learn from history, not punish people for it.—
So, shit happened. US is placed in a position where it needs to respond (not the ‘red line’ thing, any President would have used the same language). President differs to Congress and people lose their freaking minds. Look, I know it’s been awhile since a President went to Congress for permission before an attack, but this is how it is supposed to work. Trust me, this does not make the President weak. This is not him trying to get Congress to cover his ass. This is not about shifting blame. This is the President actually doing his job. Shocking, I know. I know we are all used to the type of President who shoots first and then asks questions later but in reality this is how it should happen. Knee jerk reactions are what have caused most of our problems so I find it refreshing that this President is taking the time to make this decision with the appropriate gravitas and involving all the necessary people.
Funny thing, those that make the claim that going through Congress makes the President look weak, soon follow with, “Who the hell does he think he is? Thinking he has the authority to act without Congress.” *facepalm headdesk* Okay, seriously, pick a side. You cannot claim Obama is weak for differing to Congress, then claim that Obama is a dictator for saying he has the authority to act without Congress. It is either one or the other. You cannot be pissed about both.
According to the Constitution, as it was originally intended (that’s for you Tea Party people, who are hypocritically outraged at this point), the President must seek authority from Congress before declaring war. The Constitution did originally read that only Congress had the power to make war. That was changed in 1787 to ‘declare war’ so that the President could respond to immediate threats. The reason for that is quite simple. In the 1700’s, it took a long time to get places. The idea is that, for example, should Canada attack while Congress is not in session, the President can do what needs to be done until Congress gets around to voting. And it was commonly thought that should such an event occur Congress would then be obligated to vote to continue military actions. Granted, a few things have changed from this original intent.
The War Powers Act of 1941 gave the President immense power regarding war. At the time it was necessary due to the scale of the conflict we had found ourselves in (WWII). However, that law still stands today and has led to a few issues here or there. Like Korea and Vietnam. Use of the War Powers Act, or at least a very loose reading of such act (see R. Nixon), then led to the War Powers Resolution in 1973. This allowed the President only 60 days of warfare without Congressional approval and required the President to make written reports to Congress. Then, we have legal precedent, or rather non-judicial (see Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43)…just to name a few). No President has ever been seriously questioned about violating the War Powers Clause (that’s the actual reading of the Constitution). We might have, once, if it hadn’t been for this stupid little thing called Presidential Pardon (again see R. Nixon). As for the others it has never been brought up. And despite popular belief Bush (43) and Cheney have not been pardoned…nor have they ever been charged with any crime. Though to be fair, every President since Nixon could have been charged with a crime had we been following the actual text of the Constitution.
Finally, a little thing called the AUMF. Authorized Use of Military Force. If you don’t know what this is then you haven’t been paying attention. Google it. Now. Specifically the AUMF against terrorists passed on Sep. 14, 2001. Yeah, that one is a doozy. These things make Obama correct in saying that he has the authority to act. ‘Cuz he kind of does. And yes, that does suck. Instead of doing so, however, he did what, technically, every guy before him should have done, and went to Congress. So, basically, it boils down to this. The guy you lambasted for the last years, claiming his disregard for the Constitution, claiming his outright subversion of the Constitution, are pissed because he followed the Constitution. Oh for …no, deep breaths, rant later.
Last argument, opposing Assad is treason because then we would be supporting Al Qaeda. ARGH!!!!! Is anyone paying attention? First of all, you and your enemy can have the same enemy and not support each other. Just because you dislike the same guy doesn’t make you friends or buddies. Kind of like how disliking the Yankees doesn’t necessarily make you a Mets fan.
That, however, is beside the point. For those of you only paying attention to what you hear on TV, there are 3 factions in this war. Assad’s forces, which we know are bad. The Free Syrian Army, the people—citizens—fighting against Assad for their freedoms, of which, we know, some are bad. Then there is Al Qaeda. These assholes just kind of showed up. Fairly typical of a terrorist organization to take advantage of a situation. The FSA is not Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda doesn’t give a shit about the Syrian people or who runs Syria. They saw an opportunity to give themselves a foothold in Syria (yeah, that would be bad for us…but strategically advantageous for them). Basically they saw an opportunity to gain more power and they jumped at it.
Yes, there have been times where FSA and Al Qaeda have fought side-by-side against Assad. (Of course, there are times when the FSA has also fought outright against Al Qaeda as well) Here’s the thing though. When somebody is shooting at you, you’re not paying that much attention to the guys not shooting at you. Nor, in the heat of battle, are you going to care that much if the guy trying to kill the guy trying to kill you is from Al Qaeda. That will be sorted out later, right now, you are distracted by trying not to die. Beyond that, just because you fought alongside someone doesn’t mean you agree with them on everything.
In WWII, our soldiers fighting alongside Russian soldiers did not mean a shared belief system. The US and Britain teaming up with Stalin was not an endorsement of his beliefs. Was our partnership with Stalin wrong? Not exactly, but it wasn’t really right either. Stalin was an ass. Hitler was an ass. Hitler was trying to kill us, Stalin was trying to kill Hitler. Not pretty, but war makes strange bedfellows. Stalin was a dictatorial, murderous asshole. But, at least he wasn’t trying to take over the world. Sadly, we needed him to stop the asshole that was. Sucks. Again, welcome to war.
Unlike the US in WWII, however, the FSA has not welcomed Al Qaeda with open arms. They are skeptical of Al Qaeda’s stake in this war and don’t trust them to just walk away when it is all over. In fact, the FSA had repeatedly said that Al Qaeda has hijacked their revolution. So, then, why haven’t they done anything about it? Because they are a little busy fighting the other guy. A good rule of thumb is when someone is trying to kill you, you don’t go out of your way to make someone else want to kill you. Better to focus on one fight at time.
So, what’s left? Syria. That’s it, forget the rest, it is horseshit. Do we act or don’t we? First, the threat of action has made one very large difference. Russia has revised its position, saying if proof of the attack by Assad could be made it would support a UN military strike. (Psst. For those of you critiquing the President about a lack of secrecy toward said attack…it’s not stupid and careless if this is the outcome you wanted). I don’t pretend to know the reason behind what the President said and what intel was released. But if I wanted Russia to cave, this is exactly what I would have done. To tell the truth, I was waiting for Russia to come out with such a statement since the President made his initial statement. It’s all very simple if you understand two things. Putin may be a lot of things, but he is not stupid. Thus he knows, the last thing Russia needs is another 40 year pissing match with the US. If that was the intent, then it was a hell of a bluff. If that wasn’t the intent then a) you got lucky and b) you need to tone down the rhetoric.
Russia caving is a big thing. For two years, Russia has essentially cockblocked any diplomatic action against Syria. Within the span of a week we saw Russia go from no way in hell, to we will support a strike if you can prove it, to let’s just get Assad to give us his weapons. Basically, Russia is now on board to do what the rest of the UN has wanted to do for two freaking years. Now, the UN can act without worrying about being blocked by Russia. And if Russia doesn’t block odds are good China won’t block either. Should this happen, there will be no attack on Assad (unless he really screws this up) and any action (diplomatic or military) will be UN sanctioned and supported (i.e. financials, lest you think I am being redundant). Thus, the US doesn’t have to go it alone in saying chemical weapons will not be tolerated. So, we get to act on something we need to act on and yet not be seen as the cowboy assholes, because we did it the right way. Isn’t foreign policy fun?