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Those of us with any historical memory at all will remember that the pretext for war in Afghanistan was 9/11, but the pretext for war in Iraq was not. Seemingly, it was about human rights abuses and tyranny and those tricky mobile weapons of mass destruction (right). But when it was all over, there were no WMDs…just artist drawings of vehicles that could have been used to produce chemical weapons which Saddam Hussein was said to be planning to use against his own people.
The pretext for war was little more than a set-up, perpetrated on the American people for a war which, in the final analysis, was more payback than anything else.
Still, the historical background should tell us two things: One, that using WMDs as a pretext will lead to war and two, jumping the gun on deadlines gets everyone off the hook.
The net is that if we hinge the discussion of using military force against the Syrian regime on whether or not Sarin was used against the Syrian people, history says we’ll end up at war – and sooner rather than later.
But if we step back and ask ourselves, how many different ways can we approach this problem? our options open up.
Is that what President Obama is doing by throwing the ball to Congress?
Historically, presidents always catch the heat for the war, and this one, as almost everyone agrees, isn’t likely to go well no matter what happens.
So passing the ball to Congress ensures that they will feel the heat too.
Further, there’s a slim chance that Congress will actually back away from military action. A ray of hope that they will find an alternative.
Because they don’t want the heat either.
Sarin is nasty shit, but it’s not worth another recession, it’s not worth another round of debt, and it’s not worth the loss of more lives on all sides.
My hope is that the president is buying time to reassess his nonmilitary options. How can he disable the Syrian government without violence?
There are many options.
For example, he could disable the communications infrastructure completely. He could compromise the power grid. He could shut off water until the sarin is produced. He could scramble the economic infrastructure so completely that no commerce could be continued.
If our final option is to go in full force, I have nieces and nephews in active military and I can assure you, we have more than enough preparedness for this.
However, the problem with a traditional ground war is that they don’t end traditionally anymore. Nobody surrenders.
It just goes guerrilla, into the bush, behind city walls.
If this is the legacy of our time, it is a dismal one indeed…especially when there are workable alternatives at hand.