By Malik Little
People like Robin Yassin-Kassab make good arguments against U.S. airstrikes on the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the problem is that hardly anyone else is making them. Instead, we usually hear some variation of the following five.
The U.S. crossed President Obama’s “red line” in the 1980s by aiding and abetting Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980s, first against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and then against Iraq’s restive Kurdish population. The U.S. crossed Obama’s “red line” again during its invasion and occupation of Iraq by using white phosphorus during an assault on rebel-held Fallujah. Before that, the U.S. used Agent Orange, napalm, and white phosphorus in Viet Nam. Based on this extremely brief history of U.S. chemical weapons usage, the U.S. is in no position morally to punish the Syrian regime for crossing a “red line” although it is in this position militarily.
Anti-interventionists who build their case on U.S. hypocrisy operate under the illusion that non-hypocritical military powers exist or that wars are exercises in morality. They don’t and they aren’t.
Waiting for a militarily powerful state founded and led by Santa Claus or a modern-day Gandhi to arise is not an acceptable course of action in the face of the clear and present danger of continued chemical weapons use by the Assad regime.
4. Non-violent alternatives, non-military options.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow talked up sanctions, negotiations, arms embargos, war crimes tribunals, stepped up humanitarian aid to refugees, and all manner of embarrassingly ineffectual schemes given that the Syrian people exhausted non-military options over two years ago. For those that don’t know, their peaceful protests were met with gunfire, the torture and mutilation of children, rape on a mass scale, shelling, airstrikes, Scud missiles, and sarin gas attacks by the Assad regime that have killed over 100,000 people, forced two million to flee to neighboring countries, displaced five million internally, and led seven million to need humanitarian assistance – all in a country of a little more than 20 million.
There simply is no non-violent way to stop such a heinously violent regime.
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