America: world police

COMMENTARY BY:
COLIN BRUCIA

There is no denying it. America is the world’s police force … and guess what? We are at it again! This time we are headed to Syria to protect the world from the dastardly Bashar al Assad and his hoard of chemical weapons. The embattled Syrian dictator crossed a red line when he used deadly sarin gas in a suburb outside Damascus Aug. 21. It is a fact that hundreds did die a terrible death that day. The U.S. government just asks that the Assad regime use more conventional means to slaughter its people. In case President Obama’s administration has not noticed, all factions have waged a brutal bloody war that violates human rights on a daily basis, which has resulted in the deaths of scores more than the sarin gas attack late last month. This is an international problem that deserves an international response. All that would come of this “limited strike” is an increased anti-American sentiment in the area. The strike would also endanger American interests and lives in the event of retaliation.

All one has to do to see the immense danger of this proposed action is look to history. This country has a problem where it gets involved in conflicts in which it has no business. These conflicts cost billions of dollars that would be better suited for domestic improvements, and they have an even greater cost of thousands of American lives. Even if we do not go through with this strike, America has wasted no time in participating in a Cold War-style proxy war.

The New York Times reported Sept. 3 that “Mr. Obama indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria.” This sounds oddly reminiscent of a similar covert American effort to help the Mujahedeen, a group of fighters rebelling in Afghanistan against an invading Soviet juggernaut. These fighters received instruction from the CIA and evolved into the infamous Al Qaeda, a group that 15-plus years later was responsible for 9/11. Clearly we have not learned our lesson.

While Obama has taken the correct approach in asking Congress to authorize this country’s newest Middle Eastern adventure, it is not certain that Congress will grant his request. If Congress were to refuse him, it would be a relief for our senators and representatives to finally be in step with American public opinion; however, the Obama administration would still have the option of following foreign policy precedent under the 1973 War Powers Act, which circumvents Congress’ constitutional authority by allowing the president to order military action for a period of 60 to 90 days. This is what Obama did when NATO removed Gaddafi through an airstrike campaign, so it stands to reason that if his initiative is stopped in Congress, he may opt to undertake the politically toxic option to go over Congress’ head.

Libya can be considered a failed state, a prime example of the tradition of instability and corruption the U.S. leaves in its wake after an attempt to democratize dictatorships.

Contact the writer: colin.brucia@scranton.edu

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