Can You Be Anti-War When Chemical Weapons Are Being Used?

photo of Bashar al-Assad, dictator of Syria
Bashar al-Assad, dictator of Syria

I hate war. My father was killed in Vietnam. But I’m not totally anti-war all the time. Sometimes military action is called for. I supported military action in Kosovo back in the 1990’s to try and stop the religious genocide going on there at the time. I also supported the invasion of Afghanistan because they gave shelter to the people who planned and paid for the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The coming military strike on Syria is really a tough decision. Do we really want to stand by and watch the Syrian government use chemical weapons on their own people?

While the White House insists in public that no decisions have yet been made, it seems increasingly likely that the U.S. will join in with several of its allies in launching limited punitive strikes against Syria for the use of chemical weapons against civilians. While the wisdom of setting so clear a trigger for action has been questioned since Obama first set chemical weapons use as a so-called “red-line,” the international norm against their use has been growing since the horrors of mustard gas were first observed in World War I.

Aug. 26: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — long an opponent of the administration’s Syria policy — tells The Daily Beast that in not striking Assad earlier, Obama basically allowed last week’s attack. “[Syria] viewed that not as a red line but as a green light, and they acted accordingly,” McCain said.

Aug. 27: Sen. Corker tells Fox News on Tuesday that he believes that the administration has fulfilled the requirements of the War Powers Resolution in consulting Congress. Several lawmakers disagree, having signed on to a letter to Obama demanding that he call Congress back into session so that they can vote on any proposed military action.

Aug. 27: The League of Arab States issues a statement casting the blame for using chemical weapons on the Syrian government, but coming short of condoning the U.S.’ move to punish Assad. Instead, the Arab League calls for the United Nations Security Council to clear any use of force.

Aug. 27: Vice President Joe Biden in a speech became the highest ranking administration official label the Assad regime as the perpetrator of the last week’s attack. “There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: The Syrian regime,” he said.

Aug. 28: The United Kingdom announces its intention to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution approving the use of force against Syria, holding morning consultations with the other members of the P-5 — the United States, China, Russia, and France. Any one of the five members can veto any U.N. resolution, which is likely in the case of Russia and China.

Aug. 28: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rassmussen issues a statement saying that evidence points to the Syrian government being responsible for the use of chemical weapons, saying that the action is “unacceptable and cannot go unanswered.” “This is a clear breach of long-standing international norms and practice… those responsible must be held accountable,” Rasmussen added.

How We Got Here: A Timeline Of The Syria Chemical Weapons Saga

To be clear, I don’t support direct military intervention in the civil war going on in Syria but for me the use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians changes things. I don’t think President Obama is like President Bush, who wanted to invade Iraq for spite and oil and made up an excuse to do it. If there is concrete evidence and the UN signs-off on it then I think a military response is appropriate.

No matter how this turns out I know this – President Obama is in a no-win situation. The left and GOP will hate him for a military response if does order one. The right and the GOP will hate him for not striking if he does not.

I do have a question for my friends on the left.

Do you really believe we should do nothing while Assad and the Syrian government uses chemical weapons on their own people?

If you are against intervention in Syria, just being “anti-war” isn’t going to work for me this time. How do I reconcile the fact that we can probably stop the mass killing of innocent people with being against military action in Syria?

Right now, I’m not convinced doing nothing is the correct thing to do.