Just as then-State Sen. Barack Obama opposed the use of force resolution against Saddam Hussein, despite his use of poison gas against the Kurds, so Congress should turn aside his recent appeal to attack when this particular red line was crossed in Syria. If we did not draw the line against Hussein, what is the need to draw the line with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?
In his recent book, former Reagan Budget Director David Stockman writes eloquently about the costs of a “welfare” and a “warfare” state, noting that they both drain our national economy, the warfare state particularly. With our economy trembling on the brink of a major crash, in the opinion of many economists, this is no time for another expensive military operation.
Above all, it is wrong to commit our nation’s military to a confused and contradictory conflict. How can we fight when The Wall Street Journal attributes the following observation to an administration Pentagon official: “The big concern is the wrong groups in the opposition would be able to take advantage of (an American bombing campaign).”
This kind of half-in, half-out mission is exactly the kind of intervention we must avoid.
Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich has said that we would become “al-Qaida’s air force” should we attack Assad. The evidence is overwhelming that al-Qaida is the alternative to Assad in Syria. In bombing Assad, we would inevitably become involved on the wrong side of a civil war. Not that Assad is the right side. There is no right side, and we should stay out.
Why is President Obama asking for congressional approval of his intervention? Is it a sudden concern for the limitations of executive power? Or is it a desire to use the gas episode to get a Gulf-of-Tonkin style open-ended OK for intervention in this civil war?
We must all step back, at this juncture, and question what five decades of war have accomplished. Vietnam was, unquestionably, a total waste of men, money and political credibility. We lost and we would have accomplished nothing had we won. The fall of the Soviet Empire would not have been hastened one day by defeat or advanced one day by victory. And the war between China and Vietnam within years of the end of U.S. involvement showed how flawed the domino theory really was.
The first Gulf War, obviously, achieved nothing. It left Saddam in power and we had to go in again. The second Gulf War is increasingly appearing to be destructive in its impact. We seem to have succeeded only in giving Iran a staunch ally in the Middle East. The recent massacre of Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf — the sanctuary we established for opponents of the Ayatollah — by Iraqi forces shows how flawed our involvement was.
The Afghan War has degraded al-Qaida’s ability to fight, but the broader effort at nation building has only really propped up a regime Transparency International rates as one of three of the most corrupt countries on earth.
Libya? The jury is still out, but the activity of al-Qaida there, as evidenced by the Benghazi raid, indicates it may have a similarly disappointing outcome.
It is plainly time to say no. It is time to heed the warning of President Dwight D. Eisenhower against limited wars, unbalanced budgets and the military industrial complex.
For Syria, it is, indeed, time to draw a red line. But the line should be against military adventures.
(Daily Corinthian columnist Dick Morris, former advisor to the Clinton administration, is a commentator and writer. He is also a columnist for the New York Post and The Hill. His wife, Eileen McGann is an attorney and consultant.)