Should the United States execute a military strike against Syria for using chemical weapons?
While millions die globally each year from famine, disease, and carnage, the media focused us on Syria, with pundits ardently arguing both sides of the issue. An excellent article at Politico.com “After Iraq, Media Skepticism on Syria” exposed this tussle.
Naturally, our political leaders jumped in on both sides. And, Congress said it should be consulted.
Media and politics driving foreign policy and military intervention appear to be the new norm… just as it is for our deficit, debt, and fiscal policies.
Once upon a time our foreign policy was driven by a realistic view of our national interest. Sage historian Arthur Schlesinger in his essay National Interests and Moral Absolutes explains: “National interest seemed for a season the key to the foreign policy riddle. Its apostles styled themselves realists…. They saw international politics as a struggle for power. They rejected cant and sentimentality.” From this approach emerged our support for dictators in the Middle East.
So, what is our real national interest in Syria?
Our national interests lie in oil, the Suez Canal, and with our allies in the Middle East – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan. The upheaval and atrocities in Syria added to Egypt’s insurrection and Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda terrorism threaten the safety of our allies and our economic interests.
A stable Syrian regime, no matter how vicious to its populace, provides no direct threat to our real national interests. Chemical weapons in the hands of transnational extremists does.
Reasoning like this, said Schlesinger is why realism-based, national interest driven foreign policy declined. “Realism may well be inadequate to a new age characterized by the democratization of foreign policy… and by the rise of transnational (terrorist) forces.” Democratization, he explains, brought “morality” into foreign policy determination:
“There are certain international questions with so clear-cut a moral character that moral judgment must guide political judgment,” he said, listing genocide, atrocities, and nuclear war.
Actions in Syria certainly qualify as genocide and atrocities. But, do they give the U.S. the legal, as well as moral, right to strike?
“To override international law casually, on the basis of ideological obsessions and hypothetical fears, would appear to abandon American standards and go over to the standards of which the Soviet Union is the representative,” he cautioned.
“There’s a broad naivete in the political class about America’s obligations in foreign policy issues, and scary simplicity about the effects that employing American military power can achieve,” said a former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Wiser heads than media pundits and politicians should be guiding our decisions in this matter… and others impacting our national interest.