The headline over a New York Times opinion piece said it all: “Bomb Syria, Even If It Is Illegal.” How’s that for a bald-faced declaration of warmongering intent?
Ian Hurd, the author of the article, is an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University. In his column, he admits: “As a legal matter, the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons does not automatically justify armed intervention by the United States.”
But his attitude is pretty much, “So what?” Here’s what he says next: “There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law.”
Got that? Existing law doesn’t justify our armed intervention in Syria. So what would? Hurd writes: “… Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.”
What a wonderful Machiavellian solution! Just declare that international law has “evolved” enough to justify whatever the heck you want to do, and then go ahead and do it. That attitude would certainly put the final nails in the coffin of our Constitutional protections, wouldn’t it?
The good professor concludes his argument: “This would be popular in many quarters [want to bet?], and I believe it’s the right thing to do. But if the American government accepts that the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, it must be clear that this represents a new legal path.”
No it doesn’t, professor. It represents a new illegal path — one that can result only in more tyrannical actions by even more dictatorial governments.
It’s Thursday morning as I put the finishing touches on this piece. So far, the United States and its allies haven’t fired the first shot. With Obama heading to a G-20 conference (in Russia, of all places) next week and Congress not back in session for two more weeks, it may be a while before the first missile is launched.
But every leak out of the White House indicates the President is going to do something, by golly. Even Barack Obama is now referring to firing a shot across Bashar Assad’s bows. But not to worry; we’re promised that there will be no “feet on the ground” by U.S. forces. Our surgical strikes will be quick, lasting only two or three days.
That’s what our leaders say. But when have our policies in the Mideast ever worked out as promised? Our billions in aid to Egypt sure haven’t won us much respect there or brought their own citizens much peace, have they?
If you think The Times’ piece was provocative, just wait until you hear what the supposedly conservative Wall Street Journal had to say on the subject. Bret Stephens, who writes the “Global View” column in The Journal, had a doozy. He argued that the “main order of business” for any military intervention in Syria “must be to kill Bashar Assad.”
And not just Assad: “Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power.” But Stephens doesn’t want the death toll to stop there. The fatalities should also include “all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences.”
Forget about hitting military targets, Stephens says. Just kill the rulers and blow up their palaces. According to the columnist, “a civilized world cannot tolerate” a government’s using chemical weapons against its own citizens. That “plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein.”
I’d argue that the Muslim jihadists’ use of suicide bombers to massacre innocent civilians — whether in Israel, the Mideast or the Twin Towers in New York City — is as barbarous as anything done by Saddam or Assad to their own citizens.
At the end of his column, Stephens says, “What’s at stake now is the future of civilization, and whether the word still has any meaning.” Sorry, but I don’t agree that the “civilized” response to Assad’s butchery is for us to kill him and his family. I think we should stay out of the whole bloody mess. I believe George Washington got it right in his farewell address, when he urged this country to avoid foreign entanglements.
I suspect most Personal Liberty readers agree with me. But a whole lot of our opinion molders don’t, including FOX TV’s superstar host, Bill O’Reilly. This past Tuesday, he opened his program with a “Talking Points” segment: “What President Obama Should Do About Syria.”
In his remarks, O’Reilly called Syria’s tyrannical president “a war criminal, a mass murderer and baby killer.” He left no doubt he believes Assad has used poison gas against his own citizens and “is now responsible for thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths.”
Then O’Reilly declared:
“So there is no question that Assad must be held accountable. If you believe in American exceptionalism, that this country has a moral obligation to save lives where it can all over the world, then you know the USA must act against Assad, as it did against Sadam Hussein.”
Hold on just a minute, O’Reilly. You must have a very different definition of American exceptionalism than I do. I’m one of the most passionate defenders of our Constitutional Republic you’ll ever find. But I certainly don’t agree that we have a “moral obligation to save lives where [we] can all over the world.” Certainly not by military intervention in a country that poses no threat to us. That’s the worst prescription for sticking our fat fingers in other countries’ affairs I’ve ever heard.
O’Reilly says that Obama “has a unique opportunity not only to damage Assad [at least he doesn’t advocate deliberately killing him and his family] but to show the world that we are the good guys and those helping Assad are the bad guys.”
Does he really think that throwing our weight (and our missiles) around is the way to convince more of the world that we’re the good guys? I don’t. In fact, the more we mind our own business and the less we try to be the policeman for the world, the better off we’ll all be.
O’Reilly had some further advice for Obama, including securing the support of “as many Arab countries as possible, beginning with Saudi Arabia.” Also, “Obama should go to Congress and ask for a vote of affirmation on using military power.” And finally, we should “ask Russia and China to support NATO actions.”
I’d rate his third suggestion as hopeless, his first as highly unlikely and his second as doable — but not before sometime in mid-September. Will the warmongers be willing to wait that long?
O’Reilly concluded: “If America wants to be a world leader, we cannot allow a tyrant to violate international law by using chemical weapons.”
I’ve got a better idea: Let’s stop trying to be the policeman for the world. The world doesn’t want it. And we can’t afford it.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.