At the time I am writing this, the United States has not yet begun hostilities with the Syrian government. This state of non-belligerence won’t last long, however, and it appears that the countdown to Operation Bitch-Slap Bashar al-Assad continues.
I know full well that Assad is a dictatorial, murderous bastard; even prior to the outbreak of civil war in reaction to the Arab Spring movement, Assad could have won the Prize for Assholery. He probably learned all about public relations from his father Hafez al-Assad, the butcher of Hama. His removal from power is necessary if there is to be a freer, and hopefully democratic, Syria.
And yet I have my reservations. The armed insurrection against Assad’s rule has been nothing if not mysterious – we haven’t been told who the various factions are, we don’t know what they’re fighting with, and we have no idea what kind of government they want to establish once Assad is taken down. We’re told that Assad is responsible for the gas attack in a Damascus suburb, but we have no independent confirmation of this, and the U.S. and its allies haven’t been forthcoming in showing the evidence. A U.N. inspections team is still investigating the attack sites, but their report may not be completed for weeks, and in any event, they probably won’t be able to determine who launched the attack anyway.
Britain’s Parliament refused to give Prime Minister David Cameron’s government authorization to join a U.S.-led strike against Syria, an obvious signal that the Brits, having been fooled by Bush, Jr. and Tony Blair during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, aren’t too keen to be tricked into a war in the Middle East as easily again. Everything about the bellicose language and rush to action of the Obama administration conjures up long-buried memories of Cheney’s “smoking gun” and Powell’s detailed but erroneous lecture regarding Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction.” And with Obama’s continued willingness to kill terrorists, suspected terrorists, and their friends, allies, and bystanders at will, I’m not so sure that our President is willing to exhaust all non-violent alternatives before pressing the launch button.
We’ve seen this before. And the story didn’t have a happy ending. We’ve waited for two years while Syria descended into chaos. We can wait a little longer to gather some more facts before we add to that chaos.