The following are some questions I hope congressional leaders ask the Obama administration regarding Syria: 1. Wait--why is this a good idea again?
This question always seems worth asking, especially when someone is trying to convince you that we suddenly need to go to war.
2. What, if any, idea do you have regarding to how you want Syria to
look when this conflict is over? If the Assad regime falls, there is potential for Syria breaking apart.
Does the Obama administration view the current borders of Syria as sacred? What about the Kurdish region of northern Syria?
3. Who, among the currently recognized factions, are you backing?
This question and the previous one refer to the fact that a lot of the
rebels in Syria don't seem to consider themselves allies of the United
States. Is there a side among the warring parties that the Obama
administration has identified as a potential partner? If so, who?
4. Why so fast?
The Obama administration went from keeping Syria on the
back-burner to threatening an act of war in the span of just a few
days. The vast majority of Americans know absolutely nothing or
next to nothing about this country and why we are getting
involved. This seems like a problem.
5. Where have you been all this time?
It seems problematic to me that a country that has not played a
very active international role in peace efforts should suddenly
become involved in this way. If, for example, Obama had been
leading peace efforts regarding Syria over the past few years,
perhaps he would have more credibility now. After ignoring the war
for most of the last two years, however, what right does the
United States have to suddenly start lobbing missiles?
6. How does bombing help?
Are we just trying to send a message? Does the Obama
administration think American interests are better served by
removing the Assad regime? If so, what do they propose to replace this regime with and how does bombing Syria help to make that
7. What do people in Lebanon and Iraq think?
Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I remember how long the wars
in Lebanon dragged on. What do people in Lebanon think of all of
this taking place on their doorstep? There must be real concern in
that country of the possibility of the war spreading. I wonder what
attitudes are in Lebanon, as well as in Iraq, regarding what course
of action would best be taken to avoid the spread of the war to
8. Why can't we use this issue as an opportunity to engage Russia and
Post-Snowden it is probably unrealistic to think that the US would
show any interest in engaging Russia. Nevertheless, it's a lost
opportunity. The US has no real interest in Syria, nor does the
Obama administration seem to have identified an ally or partner
among the warring sides. Russia and Iran do have a vested interest
in keeping Assad afloat--for both countries, Syria is one of their few
friends in the region. If the Obama administration is interested in
brokering a cease-fire, Russia and Iran would be on board because
they are looking to buy time for Assad. If the goal of the United
States is regime change, then we're back to the questions regarding
what to replace Assad with and whether or not bombing will help
facilitate that change.
Everyone has their model here. Supporters of intervention point
to Libya, as well as to Clinton's bombing campaigns in favor of the
Bosnian Muslims and Kosovars in the late 1990s. In both of those
cases, however, there were clearly identified parties that the US
supported and wanted to see come to power.
In Syria, by contrast, the Obama administration knows who they
want to get rid of (Assad), but there doesn't seem to be much of an
idea about what is supposed to happen next. Shoot first and ask
questions later, in other words.
I hope this works out for the best, mainly for people living in Syria. I can't, however, say that I'm very optimistic about things right now.