No case for Syrian intervention

One can scarcely turn on the news these days without seeing the week-old looped footage of the poor souls in Syria, upon whom chemical weapons were used. This is a very serious matter, and one that certainly deserves the United States’ full diplomatic attention. Even so, the chasm between situations requiring diplomatic attention and those requiring military force is very wide and extremely deep.

At present, the White House has failed to make a convincing case for U.S. military intervention into the Syrian crisis. In the first instance, President Obama has yet to explain how military action would guarantee the desistence of chemical weapon use. Add to this the fact that the White House appears disinclined to ask Congress for approval to mount the attacks.

As reported by the New York Times, House Speaker John Boehner sent Obama a terse missive Wednesday, asking numerous questions —- including whether the administration had contingency plans in case foreign powers, especially Iran and Russia, were implicated in the chemical attacks and how the administration planned to pay for the military action.

That last inquiry, the matter of paying for the empty escapade, is perhaps the most salient one. Our nation, now poised to make a solid economic recovery, can ill afford to carry the petroleum industry’s bucket into one more war. At this point, military action does not appear to be in the nation’s best interests.

Then there’s the matter of responsibility for the chemical attacks. American, British, French and Turkish officials have been very direct in their assignment of blame to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He is certainly the most likely party. Even so, no evidence to support this claim has been released.

Absent an explicit and very swift substantiation, we stand ready to march down the path that led us to war with Iraq. Given that trillion-dollar quagmire of little political value —- after all, is the region that much more hospitable to U.S. interests since the fall of Saddam, or does it just make us feel better to think it is?

Absent direct evidence of our own, why not wait on the United Nations inspectors’ reports? They’re on the ground in Syria interviewing witnesses and collecting samples. Just to make things more opaque, Syria recently blamed anti-government rebels for the attacks. While a distant possibility, this too should be fully investigated.

On Wednesday, Great Britain proposed a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council authorizing military force against Syria. Consistent with Obama’s rhetoric on the matter, the White House indicated that it is prepared to rebuff the U.N. Security Council. This owes to the fact that China and Russia (Syria’s primary arms supplier), both Security Council members with veto power, oppose such strident measures.

Beyond the highly doubtful passage of this measure, the White House has a much more fundamental problem: It has failed to lay out any legal basis for military action and has no discernable support from key organizations — namely the Arab League and NATO — either of which might help provide legitimacy.

While the Arab League has stated that it believes Assad to be responsible, several member states — Saudi Arabia in particular —- declined to support any military redress.

We’ve been down this road far too many times. When the interests of the petroleum industry become conjoined with an outmoded fantasy of being the world’s policeman, the American people will invariably lose. We have an opportunity to interrupt that destructive pattern. It’s time we take it.