AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
History can be a wonderful teacher if only we let it be one. Especially when it comes to the United States deciding to use military force in the Middle East.
It really wasn’t all that many years ago, when in 2003 that then-President George W. Bush decided that a coalition of nations, led by the United States, would embark upon a swift military action to prevent then Iraq President Saddam Hussein, from using chemicals of mass destruction that he had reportedly stockpiled for possible use against his citizens or other nations.
As history has now recorded, those stockpiles of chemicals were never found and what was supposed to be a quick strike has turned into years of combat that has cost the United States not only tens of thousands of lives, but has also to the credibility of this country in the Middle East and around the world. To date, over 4,000 American lives have been lost and over 30,000 U.S. service men and women have been injured as a result of that decision.
Was the decision to go into Iraq, the right decision to make? To most Americans today, the answer is “no.”
And now we have another U.S. president, Barack Obama, poised to unleash yet another military strike in the Middle East. This time the target of the attack will be against the country of Syria, whose president, Bashar al-Assad, alleged has used chemical weapons against his own people.
Is it right of al-Assad to use chemicals to kill citizens of his country that oppose his rule? Absolutely not.
But is it America’s role to enter into another military fray where no other country wants to join in the venture? When President Bush decided it was time to move against Hussein, he at least had formed a massive coalition of countries that were willing to support the effort with troops. And at that time, Bush had the support of Congress and the American people.
With Obama, it appears that he is making the decision “to go it alone.” And that is a very dangerous precedent for the President of the United States to make. Especially when it comes to deciding to use force in the Middle East when there is no clear cut outcome of what such action is expected to be.
The vast majority of Americans, as well as members of both parties are urging Obama to seek another option. And that urging needs to be followed by the White House.
Whether that option involves getting the United Nations more involved in what is happening in Syria or it is forcing al-Assad to turn over his stockpiles of chemical weapons, there are still options that need to be thoroughly explored before the option to use military force is exercised.
Yes, it is time for a regime change in Syria. But the driving force for that change needs to come from the people of Syria, not the United States.
As history will reflect, there is always a time and a place when military action is not only need, it is required.
That is not the case for U.S. military involvement in Syria at this time.
And President Obama would be wise to remember the lessons of history as he explores his option in Syria.