Congress should side with the coalition of the unwilling
President Obama is on the verge of plunging America into another war. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, however, bombing Syria would trigger a regional conflagration — one that potentially could lead to a global war. World War I began in Sarajevo. World War III may start in Syria.
Hyperbole? In 1914, Europe became engulfed in a bloodbath. The spark was a conflict in a far-off corner of the Balkans. Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Russia and eventually, America — all were propelled into a larger war, resulting in the deaths of millions. By issuing reckless ultimatums, arrogant leaders were sleepwalking their nations into disaster.
Syria is a modern-day powder keg. For more than two years, it has been torn apart by a vicious, sectarian civil war. More than 100,000 Syrians have died. Nearly one-third of the population has fled into exile. Iran, Hezbollah and Russia support Syrian strongman Bashar Assad. The Islamist rebels have the backing of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and al Qaeda. Foreign jihadists have poured in to bolster the ranks of the anti-Assad opposition. The conflict pits Shiite Alawites against Sunni Wahhabites, Muslims against Christians, and Islamic fundamentalists versus Arab secularists. In short, U.S. military intervention risks dragging in almost every major regional power — including Israel — because Mr. Assad's allies have a vested interest in his survival. Hezbollah has vowed to attack Israeli and U.S. targets in the wake of American military action. Iran has also threatened to rain missiles upon Tel Aviv. Moscow has vowed to increase weapon shipments to Damascus. Bombing Syria will light the fuse that could set off the Mideast tinderbox.
Mr. Obama is pushing the United States toward a disastrous war for one reason: to salvage his ego. In August 2012, he publicly drew a "red line" in Syria over the use of poison gas. The administration claims that Mr. Assad's forces recently launched a chemical-weapons attack upon civilians in rebel-held territory, killing hundreds. To redeem his ultimatum, the president is asking Congress to authorize military force. The House and Senate should vote no. Mr. Obama risks becoming the 21st-century equivalent of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef, whose reckless military aggression triggered calamitous consequences.
The only justification for going to war is to protect America's vital national security interests. Mr. Assad's regime is brutal and ruthless, but it has not attacked or threatened us. Hence, Mr. Obama seeks to wage an illegitimate war. There is no moral or strategic basis to bomb Syria. The Syrian civil war is none of our business.
In fact, Mr. Obama wants the United States to do the unthinkable: side with al Qaeda — the very group responsible for the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the worst terrorist atrocity on U.S. soil. Contrary to the claims of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the Syrian rebels are not dominated by "moderates." Rather, their ranks are filled with Muslim extremists, who have committed numerous atrocities. The al Qaeda-backed jihadists have slaughtered priests, nuns, women and children. Churches have been burned. Aramaic-speaking Christian communities, dating back to the time of Jesus Christ, are routinely attacked. The rebels' goal: to cleanse Syria of all Christians. A shocking video reveals an Islamic fighter, after killing a Syrian soldier, cutting out his heart and liver and then eating the organs. Some rebels are engaging in cannibalism. If the U.S. intervenes, we will be allying ourselves with Islamist savages. Such a war would be a permanent stain upon America's honor — a national disgrace.
Mr. Obama's argument is morally indefensible. Both the pro-Assad forces and the rebels have committed countless war crimes. To simply bomb Mr. Assad's regime amounts to selective indignation, an act of blatant hypocrisy.
Mr. Kerry claims that allowing Mr. Assad to get away with employing poison gas will embolden other dictators to use such destructive weapons, thereby threatening global order. Hence, it is imperative and urgent, he argues, that America intervene. This is puerile nonsense. Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser launched chemical-weapon strikes upon Yemeni tribesmen. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gassed countless Kurds — many more than have been allegedly killed by Mr. Assad. Yet, this did not end world civilization. In Rwanda, more than 800,000 Hutus and Tutsis were butchered in one of the worst genocides of the late 20th century. The weapons of choice: machetes. Sarin gas is not necessary to commit unspeakable atrocities. The only thing required is evil men determined to do evil deeds.
Mr. Obama now says he never drew a red line; the world did. This is patently false. Of the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the Arab League, none of them is willing to sanction or join a military attack on Syria. The president's coalition of the unwilling consists of (maybe) France and the United States. That's it. The American people are solidly against war. Mr. Obama is finding himself increasingly alone and isolated. Bombing Syria would transform Mr. Obama into a rogue president and America into a rogue nation. Congress must stop him before it's too late.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio host on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.