Rob Douglas: Stay out of Syria
September 5, 2013
Steamboat Springs — On Wednesday, Americans across the globe will pause in prayer and reflection on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks conducted inside the United States by al-Qaida.
During those 12 years, the U.S. has engaged in hot and cold wars, overtly and covertly, against or within dozens of countries around the world. The global war on terror has been conducted using uniformed military forces, special operations forces, covert operatives, militarized drone aircraft and cyber warfare.
This world war is being fought almost exclusively by the U.S. While other countries pay lip service to the need to combat terrorists and the countries that give them shelter, that is almost all they pay.
As our allies shirk their responsibilities, the U.S. bears the financial burden of nonstop war. More important, it is Americans who increasingly pay the human cost of war with their lives or with horrific injuries that maim the body and mind.
Actually, it's just a tiny fraction of Americans. Currently, in a nation of 316 million, less than 0.5 percent of the populace have the courage and patriotism to step forward and wear the uniform of their country.
Personally, I am ashamed that I never volunteered to serve the way my grandfather and father did in World Wars I and II, respectively. While I can't turn back the calendar and right that wrong, I can speak out in opposition to the U.S. entering yet another war — the civil war in Syria.
Recommended Stories For You
I can speak out in opposition to entering a war that President Barack Obama wouldn't consider entering if American families had conscripted children at risk. If they did, those families would take to the streets to oppose a proxy war with Iran in Syria in the same way families of draftees eventually opposed fighting a proxy war with the then-Soviet Union in Vietnam.
I can speak out in opposition to a president who bluffed by drawing a "red line" against the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons but, now that the line has been crossed, intends to put the U.S. military in harm's way to "punish" the regime instead of destroying it and the chemical weapons.
I can speak out in opposition to Secretary of State John Kerry who foolishly equates 1,000 deaths by "chemical warfare" to the Holocaust while simultaneously ignoring that the president he serves didn't lift a finger while more than 100,000 Syrians were slaughtered by "conventional warfare."
I can speak out in opposition to a secretary of state who is destroying the credibility of the U.S. by claiming that launching hundreds of missiles and bombs into a sovereign country is not conducting war "in the classic sense" because there wouldn't be "boots on the ground."
Finally, I can speak out in opposition to the president's plan to enter Syria's civil war because his rationale doesn't satisfy the Powell Doctrine. The Powell Doctrine is a series of criteria that then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell articulated as the basis for the U.S. going to war with Iraq in 1991 during the Gulf War.
While there have been various formulations of the Powell Doctrine, the following criteria are generally accepted, and arguably, the president's plan doesn't satisfy any of them.
1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
4. Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?
5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
7. Is the action supported by the American people?
8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
Next week, our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., will vote on Obama's request for congressional authorization to use military force against Syria. As Americans, whether we have a family member in the military or not, each of us should decide if this is the correct use of our military, and we should make that decision known to our elected representatives before they vote.
It's the least we can do for those who volunteer to risk their lives for us.
To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.