Guest opinion: Is attacking Syria in our best interest?

Matt Williams
Special to the Tribune

I am writing in response to Mike Zucker in his criticism of Representative McClintock and his support for President Obama’s reputed leadership in a desire to attack the Syrian government for an alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people.

Mr. Zucker mentioned several times that it is in the national interest of the United States to take this course of action. In so doing, he relied upon the president’s assertion that failing to take military action “could [my emphasis] lead to escalating use of chemical weapons or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.” I find this statement illogical — it is the Syrian government, and not al-Qaida or other anti-American forces, who has reputedly used such weapons. Moreover, under this standard, one could assert that it would be in our national interest to attack Iran without delay as a result of its professed desire to develop nuclear technology (and possible nuclear weaponry) in light of its sentiment toward the United States and its support of terrorist groups.

The repeated reference to such an attack against Syria being in our national interest does not necessarily make it so; in fact, one could easily and more logically make the argument that a unilateral attack by the United States on the Syrian government would be entirely in conflict with our national interests as a result of strengthening the position of those who oppose and are at war with the Syrian government, many of whom are members of al-Qaida and other anti-American terrorist organizations. Mr. Zucker’s analogy of British and French appeasement resulting in World War II to today’s situation in Syria is entirely inappropriate in fashioning a response. Not long ago, we forged a coalition of nations that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi aggression, clear proof that we and many others in the international community will not ignore such transgressions against other nations.

As a retired Coast Guard officer with two tours of duty with the U.S. Navy, and as the father of three sons who each served in the Armed Forces (Air Force, Army, and Navy), I am very concerned that people such as Mr. Zucker seem so eager to resort to the use of American military might in a misdirected effort to right the wrongs of the world. We are not the police force of the world. A judicious and prudent use of our Armed Forces is justified only when we are under attack or when truly significant American national interests are at stake — national interests that can be clearly delineated for and comprehended by the average citizen.

It is unfortunate and very sad that innocent Syrians, including children, were chemically attacked and killed by their own government, but I am very concerned that people such as Mr. Zucker have so little regard for the lives of American men and women wearing the uniform of our Armed Forces when contemplating an appropriate course of action. It is of little import that the president claims that no American boots will land on Syrian soil during this attack; in fact, it exemplifies the cavalier attitude displayed by too many of our national leaders in the application of American military might, with all-too-frequent and hasty calls to arms, as if surgical missile and aerial strikes are not in themselves acts of war but rather tools to be employed in some form of a policing action. In the matter at hand, a case simply has not been made that significant American national interests are at stake that would warrant placing our men and women in harm’s way. Contrary to the argument made by Obama and his supporters that American leadership is best demonstrated right now by a military strike, real leadership by our president would be shown if he were to aggressively pursue a diplomatic solution through the United Nations by exerting our nation’s leverage and goodwill, or, failing that, in helping to craft a concerted military action by members of the United Nations in enforcing an international norm.

I do agree with Mr. Zucker that Congressman McClintock is duty-bound to consider the evidence presented by the president before reaching a decision, but this does not in any way diminish the burden imposed on our president to persuade Congress and the American public of the appropriateness of the application of military force. It is a heavy burden indeed.

— Matt Williams is a resident of South Lake Tahoe.

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