Our local congressional delegation should vote against President Obama’s proposed strike in Syria. The administration’s policy does not provide a solution to the stated problem. It will hurt our image around the world, strengthen our enemies and it is antithetical to our purpose: weakening the Assad government. Most importantly, military action will result in many innocent lives lost.
There is no question that Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, and his government engaged in the use of chemical weapons against the nation’s own people, and millions of people have fled the country. There is also no question that the United States must respond to threats posed by any regime that would use weapons of mass destruction.
The question is: How should we respond?
The antiquated strategy of hitting Syria with tomahawk cruise missiles—while reassuring the world, our citizens and the regime in Syria that we are not committed to any long engagement—is wrong on so many levels. This strategy defies logic in even being proposed. Why should Assad worry if we tell him the engagement is for a limited duration and he is not the target?
A few tomahawk missiles that destroy a few military installations, kills a number of soldiers and ensures there will be “collateral” damage is exactly what Assad needs. It will allow him to use more violence to retain power over his own people. He could then defend his actions as a fight against the West, uniting our enemies and damaging our image around the globe.
A boy whose brother is killed by a Tomahawk missile does not understand or care that our purpose was to prevent more murders by Assad. He will blame the person who launched the missile and become our enemy.
Waging war is not our only choice. As Ghandi pointed out, nonviolent resistance is not passive. It is active resistance. It is also more effective in many instances. The use of massive military intervention with no clear goal is absurd and immoral. The US always has the military option, but we should only use our armed forces if it achieves our required goal.
Assad is a criminal who cares nothing for his people, even the victims of a potential U.S. strike. He proved this when using chemical weapons in the first place. He knew what our response would be, and, accordingly, he is moving military assets into mosques, schools and populated neighborhoods to guarantee any effective strike will cause maximum civilian casualties. These deaths can then be used for propaganda purposes.
We need to pursue a course of action that is more intelligent than our enemies would give us credit. We should learn from past mistakes and reserve military responses as a last resort.
There are things the US can do to hasten the end of the Assad regime. A tomahawk strike is not one of them. We should employ “no fly zones” and quarantine Syria’s oil exports. We should seize Assad’s assets wherever we can. We should charge him with war crimes and insist he resign. We can prevent him from leaving and returning to Syria. We can stop the flow of money and products into Syria. We can aid Assad’s opposition, and continue to make public evidence of his crimes through news and social media, educating and mobilizing the global population.
If we hit Assad, the US could beat its chest that it did “something.” If we strategically ratchet up the pressure and make Assad the target—not his people—we will uphold our nation’s core values and send a clear message to dictators and other evil leaders that exist in this world: We will not punish your people, but we will punish you.
This is the policy our congressional delegation—Nancy Pelosi, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Barbara Lee and Mike Honda—should not only support; they could propose it as a more effective policy. President Obama was correct in asking for advice from Congress. Now legislators need to deliver him the best advice possible.
Admittedly, the approach stated might not be the one taken. But our leaders should focus on solutions to the real problem, which is Assad. The policy must under-cut the Assad regime’s goal of using an attack by the US to increase its power.
It is my hope that our President, who is usually smarter than his critics, understands the real risks involved in military action and finds a real solution to the problem. My hope is he does not fall into the trap of his predecessors, using an all too familiar strategy that should be been scrapped years ago.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.