On Bombing Campaigns

Bashar_al-Assad_(cropped)Given the recent announcement by the Obama administration that they are seriously considering a bombing campaign in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, it seems that the general attitude of the State and Defense departments is that when a Middle Eastern country starts spiraling out of control, the governing body should be bombed.  Thus we have arrived upon a new foreign policy mentality, in which declared wars are little, and objectives are vague or rather narrow considering the scope of military action.

The current situation in Syria is a fairly good demonstration of this new philosophy. Syria has been engulfed in a civil war for several years now, with few, if any, factions that are supportable by the West. Essentially (to oversimplify), there are two groups. The government, which seeks to continue its brutally oppressive regime that has very little popular support. Against the government are a variety of factions, with varying shades of radical Islam.

No group has been able to seize control of the country as of yet, thus each side is getting more and more desperate. The rebels have continually asked the West for aid, and several months ago, the United States began supplying them with non-lethal aid. The Assad government has little international support, other than Russia and Iran, who have each sent resources to Syria. Still, no side has the capability of winning outright, thus the conflicts is moving into its next stage. The Assad regime, according to several reports from intelligence agencies (yes, the same ones who claimed Saddam Hussein was stockpiling WMD), has begun using chemical weapons in the conflict, which officially crosses the arbitrarily imposed “red-line” set by the Western community.

In response to this development, the United States has felt that it must now act. Action, if it was in a solely humanitarian context, would be totally responsible. Regrettably, the administration is not contemplating a humanitarian campaign, but a military one. Not only is this plan morally untenable, it is also strategically unsound.

It is morally untenable because any kind of serious military action beyond Pakistani-style drone warfare would involve men and women putting their lives at risk. This is obvious, war involves death. However, the aim of any kind military campaign in this instance would be fighting a war that benefits no one. The President has stated that he has no intention of removing Assad from power, thus he is not interested in doing anything to permanently change the situation. Thus, a war would put lives at risk for vague, non-security related objectives.

Even if it were a smaller scale strike, the morality of it would still be in doubt. The United States would take it upon itself to wage war, killing Syrians, when no war has been previously made by Syria on America. We would be engaging in conflict without the aim of righting our own wrongs. We wouldn’t even have the extremely slight benefit that George Bush had in 2003 before invading Iraq by claiming that the action was preemptive. The Assad regime has not threatened the United States.

As stated above, the goals of any military action are vague and temporary. No long-term benefit would be given to either side. Yet millions, if not billions, of dollars will be spent and many people will die. In other words, there will be extreme cost and no gain. Militarily, this campaign is completely senseless. This could be remedied by a larger engagement with the aim or removing Assad from power, but the Obama administration doubtlessly knows that that sort of action would plunge the region into further chaos.

Any type of military action on the part of the United States in this situation is excessively foolish and should be avoided at all costs. America would lack the moral high ground, not mention any type of allies in Syria. Also, there is little overall strategic benefit to military action, as the goals are vague and the potential gain small.

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