Next month Congress will debate and vote on authorization for military action against Syria. While the case in favor of attacking Syria is exceptionally weak, poor arguments have a way of catching on if they aren’t constantly challenged. It is worth reviewing the main reasons why it would be unwise and indeed wrong for the U.S. to join the war in Syria for any length of time.
The first and most important reason to not attack is that U.S. and allied security is not threatened, and attacking Syria will not make America or any of its allies more secure. On the contrary, attacking Syria exposes U.S. allies and clients to possible Syrian retaliation and even greater regional instability, and it risks dragging the U.S. into a prolonged military engagement that very few Americans want. The proposed attack is not an act of self-defense, nor is it the fulfillment of our treaty obligations for the defense of allies. Attacking Syria would flagrantly violate international law, and would represent a significant escalation of what is still primarily an internal Syrian conflict into an international war.
There is a real danger that attacking Syria could trigger a wider conflict in the region in the form of Iranian or Hizbullah attacks on U.S. installations and client states, and that would be very harmful to international peace and security, as well as potentially very disruptive to the global economy. Even if an attack did not immediately cause a direct conflict with Iran, it would sabotage any chance of a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, and it would make a future war with Iran that much more likely. To the extent that the “limited” strikes on regime targets do have an effect on the conflict in Syria, they are likely to intensify the conflict and cause even greater loss of life. While the strikes are being justified as an attempt to deter the government’s use of chemical weapons, there is no good reason to believe that they will be a successful deterrent. Attacking Syria would not remedy any evils, and it would needlessly inflict more harm on a country that is already suffering greatly.
Attacking Syria would be unnecessary, illegal, and unjust, and Congress should refuse to give President Obama the authorization to order that attack.