Still against Intervention in Syria

T. Belman. McCarthy is suggesting that we need to be aligned with Assad to destroy ISIS. But that makes us hypocrites; against the use of WMD’s yet aligned with them. Secondly, What makes this attrocity more demanding of response that the mass killings perpetrated by both Assad and ISIS amounting to hundreds of thousands of deaths. McCarthy favours destroying the greater threat to America. In this case, ISIS.

The U.S. has no vital national interest in joining its civil war.


Image result for syria gas killings

When it came to foreign policy, I was worried that the 2016 election would be a case of Clinton delivering the third Obama term. Instead, we have Trump giving us the third Clinton term.

President Donald Trump has now done what candidate Donald Trump committed not to do: He has launched a military strike against a foreign regime — a repulsive one, to be sure — in the absence of any threat, much less any attack, against the United States, in furtherance of no vital American interests.

Trump’s act of war is in violation of the Constitution, which requires congressional authorization for such an offensive use of military force, provoked by no aggression against our nation. Or, as someone once said: Mind you, that’s just one in a series of “Syria is NOT our problem” tweets in which Trump ripped Obama for not recognizing that “the so called ‘rebels’ may be just as bad (or worse)!”

The U.S. attack is an impulsive intervention in a civil war in which both sides — the Damascus/Tehran/Moscow alliance and its Sunni-jihadist/sharia-supremacist opposition — are hostile to the United States. It is a war in which Bashar al-Assad’s continuation in power, dismal as that prospect may be, is in no way the worst conceivable outcome for American national security.

Further, the missile strike offends sound policy: If the United States has not been attacked or threatened, congressional approval should be sought, not merely for legal purposes but also to ensure that complexities have been thought through and public support for a risky intervention has been won.

Here, quite apart from the want of American legal footing, Trump lacks even the fig leaf of international legitimacy — there are none of those cryptic U.N. mandates that progressives prefer to our quaint Constitution. Supporters of Trump’s aggression indignantly focus on Assad’s latest war crime, the barbaric use of chemical weapons — an apparent sarin-gas attack said to have killed 80 civilians. (It is necessary to qualify media reports of “civilian casualties” in the Syrian conflict, since Assad’s jihadist opposition is frequently referred to as “civilian.”) I guess Obama’s gone, so we’re all in on “R2P” now.

But, to repeat, Trump acted without congressional authorization; and as explained by Harvard’s Jack Goldsmith (a former Bush Defense and Justice Department official), in the absence of a cause rooted in self-defense or a Security Council resolution, there is no international-law justification for military attacks against another country — even one whose regime uses poisonous gases against its own people.

In any event, count me out of the virtue-preening that obsesses over the type of monstrous weapons employed when the issue is the monster using the weapons — of any kind.

Both Assad and his opposition jihadists regularly commit atrocious war crimes targeting civilians. It is not beneath Assad, his enablers, or his enemies — al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their fellow militant Islamists, all of whom seek and would use weapons of mass destruction — to enter a village and firebomb or shoot up several dozen civilians (including women, children, and “beautiful babies”) with conventional arms.

That is a commonplace, and it is horrifyingly typical of internecine Muslim conflicts, which are happening throughout the region. The barbarism characteristic of Syria’s years-long civil war is not materially different because chemical weapons have been used, or because President Trump is now inflamed by the graphic images of death and destruction he has seen in government and media reports.

For those of us who have argued for years against Syrian intervention (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here), the situation has not changed.

There is no American interest is deposing Assad if he would be replaced by (a) a Sunni sharia-supremacist regime that is more likely than Assad to make Syria a platform for jihadist attacks against our homeland and interests or (b) a Libyan-style failed state that has the same effect.

To prevent that would entail a resource-intensive, open-ended commitment of U.S. forces for which the public has no appetite and the cost of which, in the absence of vital American interests, is prohibitive. Moreover, the principal American enemy pulling Assad’s strings is Iran — now empowered by eight years of Obama’s appeasement and emboldened by an alliance with Putin.

Until we have a strategy for both vanquishing the Sunni jihadists and choking the regime in Tehran (which supports the jihadists against us when it is not fighting them on behalf of Assad), attacking the Syrian regime is pointless. In fact, it may be worse than pointless.

Trump has been telling Americans for over a year that our myopic focus in Syria should be ISIS. He has been wrong about this (Iran aside, al-Qaeda has extended its influence while ISIS grabs the headlines); but at least it was a strategy based on the reality that ISIS, more than Assad, posed a significant threat to attack the U.S. and our allies.

Accordingly, accommodations had been made with Russia — particularly in sharing air space — in order to promote U.S.-led coalition attacks against ISIS.

Last night’s missile strike against the Syrian air base puts an end to those accommodations. Is the Assad attack worth it if it makes the ISIS campaign more difficult? In response to such arguments, Trump’s supporters tout the “proportionality” of last night’s Tomahawk strike. Thus do progressive Republicans continue to join Democrats in distorting this military concept.

Proportionality means that a use of force, and the collateral damage it is sure to entail, should be reasonably related to the military value of a lawful objective. It does not mean that an unauthorized, unprovoked attack is legitimate as long as it’s not too big. An aggressive missile attack on another country is an act of war. If we were on the receiving end of it, we would not be very impressed by claims that it was “proportional.” Recall how Obama was skewered — from the left as well as the right — for making similar arguments about his unprovoked attacks on Libya. And what are we going to say when Putin cites last night’s strike as justification for his own unilateral but “proportional” attacks in Eastern Europe?

Perhaps mindful of these considerations, Trump officials are busily assuring everyone today that last night’s aggression was just a one-off. Indeed, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided the dizzying explanation that an attack on the Syrian regime did not signal any change in our policy of not attacking the Syrian regime, except to the extent that we were previously against pushing for regime change but now “steps are underway” to achieve regime change. Got that? And what is going to replace Assad? The administration will have to get back to us on that one.

If these signals mean what they appear to mean, last night’s attack will be a Clintonesque pin prick: Lob a few missiles, appear to act forcefully for U.S. public consumption, but achieve nothing while emboldening our enemies — convincing them that we are impulsive, unserious, and united on neither a commitment to fight nor an objective to be achieved. Meanwhile, we are unlikely to change Assad’s behavior — it is apt to get worse with the saber-rattling about regime change. And we will encourage more bad behavior from Russia, which means more bad behavior from Iran. At least, that’s what Donald Trump used to say.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

April 8, 2017 | Comments Off on Still against Intervention in Syria | 82 views

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14 Comments / 0 Comments

  1. I disagree. It is a violation of US national interest for Syria to use chemical weapons. Iran, North Korea, China and Russia along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia now know that chemical, biological and nuclear weapon development and use is not only sanctionable but also actionable. Deterrence value is high with little risk. Fear and respect for American power and action is improved.

  2. Assad’s use of chemical weapons was militarily unnecessary. Considering its timing, coming after Assad had demanded that the US leave Syria, and while President Trump was receiving China’s President Xi, it appears to have been a provocation against the US. If not that, then it was an act of complete insanity on Assad’s part.

    The vast majority of people, both in the US and in the world, appear to support President Trump’s action; and so do I.

  3. Donald Trump is learning the same lessons that each of his six predecessors learned. America’s Middle Eastern enemies are evil, and they are hell-bent on killing us, destroying our allies, and, often, committing murder on a genocidal scale. While any given military strike is of course debatable — I think there were better and wiser options than last night’s cruise-missile strike — as a general matter American military involvement in the Middle East is unavoidable.


    Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch summed up the Trump betrayal so well when he said the Trump American air force is now the air force of ISIS…it is at the service of Jihad.

    The bottom line is that Assad and Russia fight the barbaric Islamic State


    Trump attacks Assad and Russia…He is thereby on the side of Jihad and that means also Trump is on the side of ALL Jihad including Iran…wait and see he is on the side of Iran

    This was all made clear by a hack commenter on Jihadwatch who opposed the principled call of Spencer…I did reply immediately to that hack comment and it does sum up the issue in a few sentences


    Assad will have to step down…you say and why? Because the Muslims will not accept him

    And there indeed is the crux.

    That is always the divide between opportunists and principled fighters for truth

  5. Trump will indeed gain from this action…but he will lose the principled people who supported him so valiantlly for so long.

    Those principled people actually in number tens of millions are now gone

    Those followers supported Trump because they saw him as a fighter against FAKE NEWS

    That period is now over for good. Trump in claiming Assad used gas becomes a user of FAKE NEWS

    Michael Savage on 5 April tore Trump apart. Savage a real expert knows it was a false flag and the lasting damage to Trump is that he has lent his weight to Fake news on which all FALSE FLAG OPERATIONS are based

  6. I have great respect for McCarthy but think he is wrong in this case. The same goes for those who share is view point. First things first. Assad must be brought down and Iran pushed out of Syria and out of Sunni Iraq at a minimum. This will be fairly easy to do. Russia can stay. Once done the US and its allies can destroy ISIS. Not just in Iraq and Syria but in Egypt and Libya.

    The Key here is to arrange for a Sunni occupation of what is liberated. Egypt and Egypt and Jordan could do it because it strengthens each of them.

  7. Haley said Defeating Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad are priorities for Washington but she didn’t prioritize them. Tillerson said first ISIS then we will “stabilize” Syria. I didn’t like this and certainly didn’t link his use of the word “stabilize”. Does it or does it not include removing Assad from power and Iran from Syria.

  8. Lots of different warring factions in Syria. What Israel needs is to make sure Hezis/Iran do not end up on Golan border.

    If Kurds can carve out an area for Independence that would be good.

    If ISIS – Hezis – Iranians keep killing each other that is okay. They are all enemies and if they are busy hurting each other and not bothering with Israel that is fine.

    Syria does not have the military man power even with Shite terrorists Iran has imported to help Assad keep all the territory of the former Syria. So the battles will continue.

  9. Ted, I do not think we need boots on th ground in Syria at this time of pick your poison slaughter between Shia and Sunni-at least not at this juncture. Our deterrence must be restricted to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons’ development and use. We must restrain use of our reduced military resources in the face of the growing Iranian-North Korean axis and threat. We cannot now project greater naval force in two oceans nor fight all out war in two different hemispheres. We must await build up of our naval and marine forces. In the meantime Trump should reformulate the real Western coalition of nations beyond the propaganda of the last administration’s retreat and advance of drone strikes only. Only after such build up should we prioritize two key factors: immediacy of threat and intensity of threat. If none, we should stay out. This is fair, balanced and realistic while not satisfying the humanitarians who claim that civil war mass slaughter demands intervention irrespective of which evil side we choose. But that is the point choosing to stymie Iran/Assad/Russia/ Hizbollah first and the Isis and Al-Quada second is making the difficult choice between bad and bad.comment-63356000186483″ title=”Go to comment of this author”>Ted Belman:
    @ Ted Belman:

  10. @ Dennis:

    We’re using Special Forces in tandem with Kurdish forces. This war is being fought in a different way.

    “VICTORY – Mission Tabqa Dam Complete, joint US SpecOps retake vital dam from ISIS
    Published on March 26, 2017 by John Sjoholm”

    But, a lot is just secret or deliberate mis-direction, which is good because the enemy is listening. The President needs our political support, not our tactical advice.

  11. The betrayals from every corner are now on full view. Ted Belman to the SILENCE of Gil White says it was real attack and not as Michael Savage insists a false flag. Using same MO as so many others.

    This is the betrayal. It is this that will rebound on the Jews. It is lack of principle.

    Ted does not even entertain answer to question why would Assad have done this…like driving up, robbing bank with reg plates on full view

    That is the cover up.

    Mistakes are one thing but lack of principle is different

  12. @ Felix Quigley:
    The Guardian article addresses motive.

    Here’s another reason: He is from the Alawite minority and he is ethnically cleansing the Sunni Majority with Iran’s help.

    It’s a replay of Saddam Hussein (who was a Sunni) using poison gas to ethnically cleanse the Shiite majority in Iraq. They are both Baathists. The Baathist party is National Socialist (Nazi) in structure and orientation. They were formed in imitation of the German Nazis.

    He has murdered 500,000 and expelled 7 million.

  13. “The Syrian-Iraqi Baath party and its Nazi beginnings

    Ruling party learned from Nazis

    “Why Chemical Weapons Are Different”

    “Here’s Why The World Banned Chemical Weapons In The First Place”

  14. With he silence of Gil White and Jared Israel it is impossible to argue on such a forum as this and against such ideological liars. So then before you go any further just address the arguments of Michael Savage in relation to this what he insists as a false flag operation. That is the centre of this. People who argue a lie I do not like do not trust and will have nothing to do with.

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