Photo Courtesy of UShumor.com
Aside from making time for my Labor Day escapades, I’ve been holding out on Part III of the “Messing with Syria” series to make an announcement I feared but knew was coming:
Folks, it looks like the United States is going to attack Syria.
Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved U.S. military action against Syria by a vote of 10 to 7. Considering Secretary of State John Kerry’s influence in the Committee and his prep work with three yet-to-be-named middle eastern allies, this result comes as no surprise in a situation that has escalated to the point where Kerry now casts Syrian intervention as a moral imperative akin to the fight against Germany in World War II.
As the pieces of our bulky bureaucracy slide into place, the gears of militarism are certainly ready to run at full speed. But all military action needs justification, something Obama never fails to provide when all the diplomatic options wither away.
We Are the World
So what casus belli does our President abide by in this tricky situation? Certainly not a UN resolution (Russia seems to enjoy its place as the protector of pariahs in the Security Council) or unified Western permission for military involvement. In fact, American participation in the Syrian conflict comes with no guarantee of a Libya-style coalition-backed effort, even with the three mysterious middle eastern benefactors who are somehow willing to provide arms solely out of the goodness of their hearts. Rather, I refer you to the Obama Administration’s famous “red line” statement regarding chemical weapons use, finally coming to the fore as the reason behind what appears to be a brewing war.
Only now the “red line” is no longer Obama’s. At least, that’s what he’s been saying to work his way out of the diplomatic hole he dug almost two years ago. Instead, at a Swedish press conference today, the President recapitulated an earlier domestic argument by saying, “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line,” explaining that 98% of all nations have agreed to cease the use of chemical weapons even during warfare; therefore, “the international community’s credibility is on the line.” It’s a fair point, but there’s a major problem: Syria didn’t even bother signing, let alone ratifying, the Chemical Weapons Convention, so from a legal standpoint the credibility of the global community is less important than the failure of international law to apply to rogue states (a constant across all realms of diplomatic and military relations). Furthermore, while the international community is in theory responsible for the maintenance of order, most nations are perfectly happy to preserve their credibility through lip service and let the United States slug it out with the bad guys. All in all, the justification thus far is weak–not a good sign for a concerted effort against the Assad regime.
So… What Now?
Fortunately for Assad, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s authorization must pass the gridlock of the House and the Senate to approve military action. The usual suspects are the biggest players in this war-within-a-war: Boehner, the constantly capitulating Speaker, maintains an outward indifference to Syria policy, placing responsibility on Obama to make the case for an attack. Harry Reid is likely to get other Democrats to tow the line in the Senate and vote for military intervention, while individuals such as Rand Paul are likely to wreak havoc on chamber voting procedures to prevent an easy slide into international conflict. John Kerry, for his part, has stayed relatively aloof today, probably anticipating the slugfest about to break out on Capitol Hill.
If (really, when) Congress gives the okay to punish Assad, political analysts anticipate that the military strike will involve cruise missiles targeting specifically military installations. Obviously, these so-called analysts have been stealing my predictions off this blog, but it appears that the U.S. strategy will likely involve cruise missiles that are capable of breaking through Syria’s relatively strong air defenses. Little else has been revealed; however, Obama reasserted his promise today that “there will be no boots on the ground,” causing one to wonder if SEAL Team Six counts as “boots.” I guess Bashar al-Assad will just have to find out for himself when there’s a Tomahawk sticking out of his living room.