How Bay Area Members of Congress Should Approach the Syria Conflict

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.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

17 Comments

  1. In the President’s defense, his ending of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his deft moves in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and his decision to give Congress a chance to vote on Syria is a far cry from the Bush—“bring them on” policy.

    The consequences of the changes will bring challenges, but the ultimate decisions came from the people themselves.

    That said, the Syria policy is a departure from the thoughtful approach this President has exhibited in the past. 

    He got Bin Laden, Qaddafi, Mubarak and Ben Ali (Tunisia)—we can get Assad, we just need a better strategy.

    • What about domestic spying?  What about expanding drone assassinations? Why does he keep appointing Republicans to run the military?

      Now that he doesn’t have Hillary to run the State Department, he’s really floundering.  He probably has the second biggest idiot in the government running the State Department for him now.  He probably spends more time practicing his snappy salute then he does thinking about what he’s doing with respect to foreign policy.

    • > That said, the Syria policy is a departure from the thoughtful approach this President has exhibited in the past. 

      Oh, Rich!  This is just too easy!

      “The only reason you oppose Obama’s policies is because he’s black.”

      > He got Bin Laden, Qaddafi, Mubarak and Ben Ali (Tunisia)— . . .

      I think you’ve fallen behind in your bumper sticker reading:

      “Detroit is dead, and Al Quaida is alive.”

      And, by the way, if there is not enough money to fuel our nuclear aircraft carriers, where’s the money to launch a half billion dollars of Tomahawk missiles ($3 million per copy)?

      http://news.usni.org/2013/02/08/navy-lincoln-refueling-delayed-will-hurt-carrier-readiness

      I know!  We could steal a couple of billion dollars from the High Speed Rail project, the billion dollar bay bridge bike path, or Joe Di Salvo’s education budget.

      • Blame republican intransigence on the budget.  The extension of Bush spy program is wrong.  Ford didn’t bailout NY either—it would be a bad precedent.  But hey, cars are back are employment is picking up, despite all attempts by republicans to thwart this President.

        A rising tide liftts all boats,  Silicon Valley is leading the economy back—as for High Speed Rail, pass the Trasportation bill, the Ag Bill and get this government and economy moving—all obstructionist Reep policies.

        This President has been great so far—not perfect, but great.  He already comes in at 16 out of 45.  His predessor was 43 out of 45—though I think it unfair to claim William Henry Harrison as below him, he was only in for a month.

        • > Blame republican intransigence on the budget.

          I blame Republican wimpiness on the budget.

          Or, to be grammatically intelligible, I blame the budget on Republican wimpiness.

          What do you get if you cross a Republican with a backbone?

          Don’t know.  Whatever you get, it hasn’t been seen in decades.

          > This President has been great so far—not perfect, but great.  He already comes in at 16 out of 45.

          This is a stunning fact, Rich.  I’m not quite clear what it means, though.  I was under the impression that he was more like 8 or 9 out of 45.

          By the way, what dimensions are we talking about?

          Fumbles per punts handled?
          Completions per pass attempt?
          Campaign promises kept versus promises made?

        • > By the way, what dimensions are we talking about?

          It’s a miraculous presidential rating system that manages to be 100% objective and does not in any way reflect the biases or ideology of those who designed it.
          The science is in, Lou.
          Obama has been great. And He IS #16.

    • last I checked the Afghanistan War has not ended and we Still Have Boots on the Ground as the president likes to say.  And American troops are still dying.

        • Exactly, don’t state HE (president) ended the war UNTIL it is OVER and americans are no logger dying.  If your going to end a war it means pulling all troop and equipment out.  I am not hold my breath on 2014!

          Seems now he wants to start another one after cutting our military.

  2. 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.

    Obama’s problem is that his foreign policy is a continuation of Bush’s foreign policy.  He isn’t going to “fall into the trap of his predecessors”.  He wasn’t smart enough to change things when he took office and he isn’t going to change things now.

  3. Yep. Rich has got it right this time. The idea that our technology, military expertise, and weaponry can be used cleanly, precisely, and effectively is nothing but a Hollywood myth.
    And I even question whether we should assist the overthrow of the Assad regime in any way. Our military “intelligence” has proven itself over and over again to be eminently fallible and tainted by political considerations. Frankly, they’ve lost my trust. And any political analyst who guarantees that the vacuum created by Assad’s overthrow might not result in something worse should be dismissed as yet another political blowhard.
    Obama’s naivete viz a viz Egypt and Libya cannot be ignored.

  4. Rich,
    I am really torn on this issue. I hate war, and I think it should only be used in extreme cases. I’m just confused about whether or not this situation applies.

    My Mother survived Nazi Germany, and told us horror stories about it. People suffered endless torture before the US intervened. That is the sticking point for me.

    People in Syria are being killed in horrific ways. They are begging us for intervention. Should we just stand by and do nothing? I don’t think so.

    On the other hand, is our President 100% sure of who made these attacks on these people, and is retaliating with violence the right answer?

    Also, chemical warfare could harm the entire planet! China and Russia are threatening us with retaliation and are guarding the waters with heavy duty weapons. It is very clear that some type of deal has been struck between them and Syria. (Probably around oil, or something related to money/power.)

    I personally believe that our country needs to try negotiating before striking. If we don’t get cooperation, or some kind of good faith effort in return, well then that’s a different ball game that would call for some type of action, but not necessarily war.

    Can you help me out here?

    • There is a right way and a wrong way.  Tomahawk missiles are not our only option.  We need to act boldly, but not urgently.  Resolve should never be confused with rash action. 

      Doing something does not mean killing innocent people.  Getting rid of Hitler would have been a good idea, bombing a slave labor military camp would have only hurt the people we were trying to save.

      Let us think before we strike—and let us strike only when there is a defined goal that can be achieved. 

      Our power is not solely defined by military might.  Increase pressure on Assad in a strategic and systematic way and don’t kill the people you are trying to save.

  5. Obama has finally managed to unite most of the country. In this case he has united us on getting into a unnecessary and counterproductive war. Rich is correct on this one and I hope his leftist friends listen.