Amid recent reports of chemical warfare being deployed in Syria, talks among the Western powers have ensued as to what the proper response is. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said in a statement, "President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapon against the world's most vulnerable people." If we tempt fate for just a moment and look into the history books, however, we'll realize that starting another war in the Middle East is a terrible idea.
First of all, for the sake of pure journalistic honesty, let's get one thing straight. Nuclear warheads have the power to decimate not hundreds of lives but thousands. The U.S. is still leading the way in number of nukes held at 5,113, according to one estimate — enough to incinerate the planet several times over. These, not chemical weapons,are the world's "most heinous weapons."
At the moment, the assumed basis for military action is that Bashar Al-Assad, Syria's current ruler, used chemical weapons on his own people. The U.S. wants to override the UN's warmaking authority (which it ironically fought so hard to establish) because Russia and China threaten to veto any plan to strike against Syria. Russian officials are claiming that at this point there is no absolute certainty as to who deployed the chemical weapons. They've got a point — either the rebels or Assad could be the culprit. It is all speculation.
Does this remind anyone else of an Iraqi regime that we said was certain to have "weapons of mass destruction," only to find out they didn't?
And if we do take action against Assad (a nice euphemism for bombing a country), what next? The U.S. has a sterling history of rebuilding governments — said nobody, ever. Iraq is still a mess politically. Religious divides between the Sunni and Shi'ite populations provoke more internal conflict than Westerners can wrap their heads around. To think bombing this region of the world again will create stability defies logic. Syrian rebels who are affiliated with Al-Qaeda may want democracy, but the kind of democracy where a majority vote to kill off the minority population is okay.
Last time the U.S. went to bomb the "bad guys," we ended up killing a lot of innocent civilians too. Conservative estimates range from 115,00-125,000 lives taken. Just because bombing Syria might look good on paper does not mean the real-world outcomes will be as merry as we hope.
And finally, on a more self-interested note, why does the U.S. want to dump more money into functioning as the world's police? (Well, the short answer is quickly summed up by two words: Lockheed Martin.) Quick flashback to the past two wars: They were both paid for with borrowed money that the U.S. government did not (and does not) have. If we want to be the world's police, then we should collect taxes from the rest of the world. But we are not in fact the world's only government.
President Obama successfully campaigned on the concept of nation-building here at home, not nation-destroying in a region we have a horrendous track record in. Military action is not the answer to a region already decimated by violence and instability. Doesn't the U.S. have better things to worry about at home anyway? I could think of a few things.