Britain, the most reliable U.S. ally for military adventure, will not help on a mission to strike Syria. Pres.ident Obama hasn’t exactly said he will strike, but seems inclined. Many in Congress want him to seek their authorization, but he hasn’t committed to that. The U.N. experts are finishing their inspection in Syria but, in case you missed this detail, the U.N. inspectors will not issue a finding about whether Syrian President Assad used chemical weapons, only on whether chemical weapons were used.
If you are inclined to think this through for yourself but need to understand the background, you could not do much better than John Judis’ primer in The New Republic. It’s not that long, but it manages to go back briefly to the Geneva Conventions to explain a pre-United Nations legal rationale for the United States to act and jams an impressive amount of basic information into his piece. Judis does not take a position on what Obama should do.
The Onion, on the other hand, managed to brilliantly (and pretty accurately) summarize the problems with every possible approach Obama might take by narrating it through the faux-sympathetic eyes of Bashar Assad himself. Here’s a taste (remember, this is Assad imaginarily speaking to America):
…So, where do I begin? Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but let’s start with the fact that my alliance with Russia and China means that nothing you decide to do will have the official support of the UN Security Council. So, right off the bat, I’ve already eliminated the possibility of a legally sound united coalition like in Libya or the First Gulf War. Boom. Gone. Off the table.
Now, let’s say you’re okay with that, and you decide to go ahead with, oh, I don’t know, a bombing campaign. Now, personally, I can see how that might seem like an attractive option for you. No boots on the ground, it sends a clear message, you could cripple some of my government’s infrastructure, and it’s a quick, clean, easy way to punish me and make you look strong in the face of my unimaginable tyranny. But let’s get real here. Any bombing campaign capable of being truly devastating to my regime would also end up killing a ton of innocent civilians, as such things always do, which I imagine is the kind of outcome you people would feel very guilty about. You know, seeing as you are so up in arms to begin with about innocent Syrians dying. Plus, you’d stoke a lot of anti-American hatred and quite possibly create a whole new generation of Syrian-born jihadists ready to punish the United States for its reckless warmongering and yadda yadda yadda.
Okay, what else? Well, you could play small-ball and hope that limited airstrikes to a few of my key military installations will send me the message to refrain from using chemical weapons again, but, c’mon, check me out: I’m ruthless, I’m desperate, and I’m going to do everything I can to stay in power. I’d use chemical weapons again in a heartbeat. You know that. And I know you know that. Hell, I want to help you guys out here, but you gotta be realistic. Trust me, I am incapable of being taught a lesson at this point. Got it? I am too far gone. Way too far gone…