Sunday, September 8, 2013

Strike Syria

I know that this is not the popular choice, given our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the record, I supported strikes in Afghanistan as necessary to weaken terrorists, and certainly opposed the Iraq War as based on faulty intelligence and a desire by President Bush to avenge Saddam's attempt to assassinate his father.

Syria, however, is different. Here we have a dictator who, as far as we know (key), has unleashed chemical weapons on his people. This is unacceptable, and to stand by and do nothing is also unacceptable. History has taught us that if you give rulers an inch they will take many kilometers. So it is with Assad. If we do nothing it will strengthen the hands of Iran and Russia, and will embolden other rulers who are threatened by insurgencies to use chemical and biological weapons should they want to.

I understand both the reticence and frothy opposition: It's expensive at a time when we should be spending money on our problems here at home. We should not be involved in nation building or getting involved in other countries' civil wars. Syria is not a threat to the United States. Pinpoint strikes will do nothing to ally Assad from doing more. Missile strikes would only be the beginning, with boots on the ground to follow. The United States should not have to solve all of the world's problems. Once you use the military, you can't control the consequences.

There are remedies to this. Congress can pass a resolution that limits the president to using missiles only and does not authorize any combat troops. This can be a one-time event. We can get the UN to support those things too. As for the more philosophical objections, if we don't know what the effects of a missile strike will be, do we really know what the effects of not calling out Assad on chemical weapons will be? Do we really know that strikes will have little effect? And by the way, Syria is potentially a threat to the United States because a victory by Assad strengthens the extremists who have struck us before. Let's try to think long-term for a change. Assad uses chemical weapons today. Do terrorists use them tomorrow?

Contrast this with what we do know if we don't strike. Assad will use chemical weapons again, perhaps on Israel, as will other dictators. The United States will look weak and ineffectual, as will the UN and the president. Those consequences are not acceptable.

The Allies ignored the Armenian genocide, decided to do little but stand in their legislative chambers in response to the Holocaust, allowed Cambodia to degenerate into chaos and killing, virtually ignored Rwanda, and only got itself unstuck in the Balkans out of shame. Now we are confronted by another catastrophe, and it is within our power to at least do something rather than shrug our shoulders.

We need to strike Syria.

For more, go to and on Twitter @rigrundfest

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