Attack on Syria could disrupt Mideast

The United States should not attack Syria, despite the use of chemical weapons against its civilian population.

Recently released CIA documents prove the U.S. knew that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was using large amounts of chemical weapons against Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Yet we did nothing because we were supporting and arming Saddam at the time. Why do we attack Syria now? Because Russia and China are supporting the dictator this time?

Have we forgotten that we ourselves used Agent Orange in Southeast Asia and white phosphorus in Iraq? Only this year, a veteran and cultural treasure of our community died as a direct result of his exposure to Agent Orange nearly 35 years ago, as have thousands of American Vietnam War veterans.

And why is Russia opposing a U.S. attack? Could it be the simple fact that Russia has its last remaining foreign military base in Syria? Russia’s national pride remains severely wounded from the collapse of the former Soviet Union, increasing its national paranoia after one in every four Russians was killed or wounded during World War II. Vladimir Putin’s bizarre antics, increasing suppression of his opposition and the media, and repression and demonization of minorities, such as homosexuals and transgender people, resemble those during the rise of the Third Reich. Meanwhile, U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated to the point that there is a ban on Americans adopting Russian babies. Just months ago, the treaty that allowed the U.S. to monitor Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal and waste materials was gutted. An attack on Syria will further enable extremists in Russia, endangering our national security.

Since the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was negotiated by former President Jimmy Carter, Egypt has become an important strategic partner of the U.S. and Israel. Despite the assassination of Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat, “Arab Spring,” Egypt’s first democratically elected president, and recent military coup, the treaty continues to be honored. Unfortunately, the U.S. has managed to alienate both pro- and anti-President Mohammed Morsi factions. An attack on Syria will only increase the chances of civil war in Egypt with an unpredictable outcome. However, it would certainly endanger our national security and that of Israel.

On Israel’s northern border, Lebanon has been slowly recovering from its devastating 16-year civil war, estimated to have killed or wounded 250,000 civilians. Its central government still only controls about two-thirds of the country. About 700,000 Syrian refugees are now in camps in Lebanon. An attack on Syria will likely reignite the civil war in Lebanon and trigger a further resurgence of Islamic extremist organizations, such as Hezbollah, in Lebanon, Palestine and throughout the world. This would endanger our national security and that of Israel.

The recent announcement of a punitive strike against Syria eliminated any chance of a surprise attack on chemical weapons facilities and military command centers. It is certain that the Bashar Assad regime has taken action since that time to minimize the effects of any U.S. missile attack.

A punitive attack will not stop the Assad regime from using chemical weapons, but will increase the risk of an escalation of U.S. involvement in a civil war that is already attracting hordes of foreign Islamic extremists to both sides. It will further destabilize an already dangerous situation in the Middle East.

Have we forgotten the 1961 farewell address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was also the supreme commander of allied forces in World War II and the first supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? “An immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience … In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Was not Eisenhower’s fear realized when our nation invaded Iraq in 2003 based upon false intelligence, resulting in death and injury to tens of thousands of American military and National Guard troops, many hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, and the expenditure of over $1 trillion of our national treasury?

This should not be a short-term, save-face political decision, but one based in common sense and very tough lessons learned from history. Do not let history repeat itself once again in the Middle East.

Chuck Flaherty is a resident of Captain Cook.

Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.