Gene Fischer is a Fairmont resident and teacher at York High School. His point of view is presented in the Wednesday edition of the York News-Times.
On this anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, talk of going to war yet again against a Muslim nation dominates the news.
The media commentary leading up to a possible attack on Syria centers on three issues and often gets them hopelessly tangled up.
Those three issues are regime change, enforcement of international standards and vital national interest. While intertwining these points of discussion is inevitable, any decision to make war must first give due consideration to each of these, independent of the others.
We have gone down the road of regime change before with little good effect on either international standards or our vital national interests.
In the lead up to the Iraq War we were led to believe the Iraqi government was building a nuclear weapon. Their supposed development of this weapon of mass destruction was in violation of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty of which Iraq was a signatory.
The leaders of both political parties joined in supporting a war that in the end had a flawed rationale and was poorly executed. No nuclear weapons were found. The only result was regime change that eliminated a counter balance to Iran and allowed militant Islamists to gain a foothold in a nation that had previously had a secular government.
Now the Syrian government stands accused of using chemical weapons during a civil war.
That kind of warfare was first banned by the Geneva Protocol of 1925 under the auspices of the League of Nations. The nerve gas used recently in Syria was classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations in 1991.
Unfortunately Syria is one of the few nations that are not a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which today enforces a ban on the production, stockpiling and use of those weapons.
As we consider a strike on Syria we must first look at the value of regime change.
It is not a surprise that Al-Qaeda was able to develop a strong foothold in Afghanistan. It was a nation that never had a strong central government, and after years of war with the Russians the central government was even more diminished. Into that power vacuum flowed the militant Islamist organization that ultimately attacked the United States.
Likewise the chaos created by regime change in other Islamic nations creates the conditions in which militant Islamic groups can develop and operate. Toppling the Syrian dictator doesn’t ensure that democracy will ensue. It would however contribute to the creation of another center of chaos in the Muslim world.
As a nation we need to come to the realization that the replacement of one government with another by means of military force should be an option of last resort. It is a strategy that should be employed by this nation only to protect our vital national interests, and only when no other alternatives exist.
Secondly, “international” needs to be recognized as the key word in the phrase “international standards.”
Efforts to build international support for a strike against Syria have been hampered by the legacy of the Iraq War. After years of war our staunchest allies, including Britain, are not willing to join us in yet another conflict. The possibility that the operation will not meet with success, and the long term costs of any military action, makes the reluctance of our allies understandable.
Finally, we have to be realistic about where our vital national interests lie.
Making it clear that using chemical weapons is not acceptable in the international community is a worthy goal. However, an attack on Syria’s chemical stockpiles will be seen as further aggression against the Muslim people by the United States alone, while at the same time contributing to the chaos that supports our enemies.
Under other circumstances the military actions proposed by the Obama Administration should and would be supported. However the lack of international support due to past military misadventures, and possible collateral risks to our national security created by a new ungovernable region, demand that these rumors of war are put to rest.
- Why destroying Syria’s chemical weapons will be harder than it sounds (tv.msnbc.com)
- Kerry’s “Blunder” Delays, But Does Not End, Obama’s Drive to War (rinf.com)
- Obama vows to explore diplomatic route on Syria chemical weapons (dnaindia.com)
- Obama Makes His Case for Striking Syria (swampland.time.com)