Mr. Obama, an unwilling public, and American history

Americans have not heard the purpose, a discussion of the immediate goals, nor a strategy on how to extract American forces from Syria.  This lesson has been taught repeatedly to the American public through the Korean, Vietnam, the second invasion of Iraq, and Afghanistan.  It is relatively easy to explain “shock and awe” to the American public. It is another to remain as an occupying power and wage a war for the hearts and minds of the people of the nation that was just destroyed – even if the end game is for nation building on a strong foundation of equal human rights.  It is also never advisable to have any limited campaign where the objectives are not well defined.  Is our purpose for intervention to destabilize or destroy the Assad government?  Is it to punish the side or sides that used chemical weapons?  Is it to force Assad to include opposition groups within his governmental structure?  As long as these questions remain unanswered, the current response “it’s simply the right thing to do” will not satisfy the American public.

What the average American citizen does understand are the lessons of the past.  If the Syrian government falls, which faction do we support to take its place?  Under what conditions would our brave servicemen and women be put under for a Syrian deployment?  Any limited military action in Syria will definitely expand to the point it becomes a much wider conflict as Russia has now said it will intervene to defend Syria.  China, North Korea, and even Iran have also made statements that they will also provide some level of assistance to Syria with Iran openly announcing attacks on U.S. embassies in the region, attacks against Israel, and terrorist attacks against soft targets within the United States. One of Iran’s religious leaders has even defiantly proclaimed brutal terrorist attacks against Americans will occur if Syria is attacked.

Americans also realize that since the end of World War II, our military is designed to fight a two front war, as we have demonstrated this capability in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A three front war is a contingency that was never considered and frankly, we do not have the military assets or personnel to sustain a third sustained combat theater as the Department of Defense has begun reducing the number of troops currently on active duty. Americans also do not understand why we should morally support the Syrian resistance since its ranks include Al Qaeda, the Mujahideen, and Muslim Brotherhood, all three are currently identified as terrorist organizations by various agencies of our government; and Americans realize that Al Qaeda was directly tied to the U.S.S. Cole bombing and the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. Americans also know that the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for the killing of United States Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and for the deaths of scores of Coptic Christians and the destruction of their churches that are centuries old in Egypt. Americans also are aware that all three groups call for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews worldwide. Why should the United States choose to ally itself with either side – Assad or those against him when neither side shares the American view on human rights?

Yes, Montesquieu’s wisdom reaches beyond the seventeenth century and should become an important question that any president must ask before any decision to go to war is made in post-September 11th and post-Stock Market Crash of 2008 America. Within Montesquieu’s mindset, we can derive two questions that must be completely and honestly answered: Is the purpose of this military action/use of force to repel an invader or to prevent an imminent attack by hostile forces from our nation or its territories; or is the purpose of this military action/use of force to help an ally to repel an invader or to prevent an imminent attack by hostile forces from their nation or its territories?  Even the Constitution implies within its preamble a sacred duty that Congress, the President as commander-in-chief, and every member of the armed forces are required by oath to defend the established justice, defend domestic tranquility, common defence of the nation and its citizenry, defend the general Welfare, and defend the blessings of liberty for the living generations and those who will come after us.  The reasons that the United States decides, through its Congress and actions of the President, to go to war must never be because the United Nations demands it as necessary, it serves a political purpose or agenda, or a consensus of nations desires it, but must come from its duty to defend the American people and the nation they serve.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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