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Syria: A Cautionary Note

Fool Me Once…

Let’s not make the same mistake that we made in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. I grant that Assad is an awful person. Maybe he could use nerve agents to kill his own people. But this isn’t about “could,” either he did or he didn’t. There are some nagging questions about Syria and the chemical attacks.

Why would Assad pick the exact time that UN inspectors are already in Syria to launch a large scale chemical attack? Seriously, Assad is a bad guy to be sure but how could he run Syria for decades if he, his generals, and top advisors are all morons? This is what we are asked to believe. The regime is determined to retain power and they have the rebels totally outgunned. Why would he do the one thing that could instantly shift the balance of power?We have been told that they waited too long to allow the UN inspectors access to the area, thus demonstrating guilt. However as I understand it, the official request to inspect the area was delivered on Saturday, permission was granted on Monday. Making statements to the press does not count as something that a nation state like Syria needs to reply to. It needs to be in writing so the Syrian government can evaluate what exactly is being asked and what’s in their best interest.

After all they’re kind of busy with a civil war. “President Assad, did you get a chance to watch the TV news?” Five days? Not really. Depending on what time the official request was made on Saturday and what time the request was granted on Monday, could have been as few as 36 hours. Not bad.

We have been told that they launched conventional missiles to destroy evidence of their crime. However, the military had been bombing the area all along. The civil war isn’t over. Why would they stop now? Assad has killed over 100,000 people and no doubt plans to kill as many as it takes to hold on to power. But the idea that he would use sarin gas seems highly suspect. Besides, chances are that much of the evidence, gas residue, witnesses, and the victims would not be gone as a result of additional attacks. Who would actually think that would work?

Why are we in such a hurry? In the lead up to the Iraq invasion, Bush, et al, didn’t want to wait for the UN weapons inspectors to finish. A few more weeks and Hans Blix and the inspection team would have finished and we would have been saved from the disaster that is Iraq. Had we been a little patient, over 4000 of our young men and women and countless Iraqis would be alive and millions of broken hearts would have been spared a lot of grief.

It seems to me that there must be a different answer. One that isn’t so obvious. The rebels have much to gain. Do I believe there could be some radical jihadist who would gas a bunch of innocent people to get the west involved? Sure, why not? There are radical evangelical Americans who called for all the LGBT folks to be put in a concentration camp.  However, I don’t believe the rebels have missiles to deliver the deadly payload. There is a short list of States that might like nothing better than to get the US to help overthrow Assad, neglect all of its own citizens, and ultimately to go broke. Until we have definitive proof of who is responsible we should not act. If we do get proof we should do something smarter than bomb some country (people) back to the stone age for the sins of their government.

My final question: Can’t we learn from our mistakes just this once?

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