Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chemical weapons in Syria

THE USEFUL WEBSITE Democracy for America asks us where we stand on Syria, meaning of course where we stand on the question of military intervention in that sad country, and provides an opportunity to express our views. This is what I think:

The United States should take this opportunity to change the rules of the game completely, moving the rationale for maintaining a huge and expensive military toward its only possible moral purpose.

The president should immediately invite other nations to help enforce the Geneva Accords by seizing and destroying the chemical weapons.

This should be announced as the objective at home, making clear their danger even to American citizens domestically (remember the Tokyo subway?). It should be announced at the UN and at NATO. And it should be stated in clear terms to the Assad government and all rebel forces.

Then we should direct our forces to seize and destroy the weapons.

Of course I realize this is a difficult objective. It would require an operation similar to that that assassinated Osama bin Laden, writ immensely larger. But it would not be an Iraq War, let alone Afghanistan. It has a clear objective and end strategy. It has nothing to do with regime change or taking sides. It would not be directed against the Middle East or any of its nations, and would involve occupation only as long as needed to dismantle the weapons.

Neither China nor Russia would agree with the concept, aware of their own stockpiles. North Korea would bluster. Iran would likely take notice and further re-think her position within the global military context.

We would demonstrate that military force can be used for pacific goals, and that we and others are serious about WMD. Perhaps we could turn next to controlling and stopping their manufacture and sale.