Almost 11 years ago, on October 2, 2002, an up-and-coming state Senator in Illinois gave a powerful and moving speech against the then-incipient Iraq war. Of course, that Senator was Barack Obama, who is now President of the United States. Today, Mr. President, I'd like permission to revise and extend your remarks with reference to the current "situation" in Syria.
In the October 2nd speech, sir, you said,
I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.
What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.
Mr. President, I agree with you completely. More than that, sir, I think you didn't go far enough. You see, sir, it's not enough that a war be neither dumb, rash, nor cynical. It's also necessary for the war to be winnable. I oppose pointless
wars, as well as dumb, rash, or cynical ones, and Syria is currently a pointless war.
Don't get me wrong, Mr. President. Unlike Iraq in 2002, we have a great deal of evidence that Bashar El-Assad has gassed his people recently. If so, we have incontrovertible evidence that he does possess weapons of mass destruction, and that he is completely willing to use them. He appears to be a monster of Hitlerian or Stalinesque proportions, and, if the UN arms inspectors come to the same conclusions you and your administration come too, there will be absolutely no doubt that we should take him out.
The problem, Sir, is that "taking him out" is currently impossible and that even hurting his regime will do vast harm to the innocent. We don't have the current troop strength to invade. Precision bombing works against fixed installations or against massed troops in isolation, but it's useless -- and arguably worse than useless -- in urban warfare. If we had the tens of thousands of drones necessary to surgically attack and kill individual Baathists, we could do that, expecting to weaken the current regime enough that the rebels would topple it. But we don't have them -- and so we have no reasonable options which we can reasonably expect to successfully topple, or even cripple, the current Syrian regime.
More than that, Mr. President, what would the appropriate action be if, somehow, miraculously, we did remove El-Assad from power? What then? Would that stop the civil war? Or would we have to play policeman in a fragmented multi-party conflict which will otherwise send Syria back to a feudal confederation of warring baronies -- quite literally, sending Syria back to the Dark Ages? Look at the on-going social decay in Iraq, and at the similar decay emerging in Afghanistan -- do you want us to replicate that yet again?
Sir, you oppose dumb wars, and you're right to do so. I think, though, that you should also oppose pointless intervention -- and, currently, that's what entering the Syrian conflict would be. I know it's unsatisfying, and that it threatens our diplomatic standing, but let's stick to things which might work -- arm the rebels if we must do something, trying to selectively strengthen the factions we think will be the best winners in the end -- but let's not make ourselves look foolish by entering a fight in a way which won't help any of the parties we'd like to support.
Mr. President, put down your war.