Should the United States get involved in Syria's civil war? Are you as conflicted about this as I am?
Congressman Tom Reed held multiple meetings with residents last week; I attended the one in Dunkirk. The questions and comments were not split down the middle for or against; they were not even close.
The majority of the audience felt strongly that if America takes military action against Bashar al-Assad it will lead to boots on the ground, regardless of what is promised by the Administration today. Let's take a look at what some of the individuals who will be voting this next week are saying.
According to Reed, "we must have diplomatic conversation as well as impose meaningful economic sanctions against Syria and its allies." This includes cutting off aid to Iraq if it continues to allow Iran to use its airspace to support al-Assad. It includes forcing the U.N. to come to the table and enforce the universal ban on the use of chemical weapons, (Russia continues to block the U.N. Security Council from passing anything that could have a negative impact on Syria).
Congressman Reed stated his position of concern about the stability in the region as well as the safety of the American people. However, without the support of the U.N., the European Union, Great Britain and our other allies around the world, if we make this "strategic strike" we will be doing so alone. Even the French have pulled back saying they want to wait for the UN.
We are still unsure of the exact number of those who have been killed by the chemical weapons, even though the Obama administration reported 1,400-plus died in the Aug. 21 attack, no one knows for sure. Over a year ago President Obama promised "enormous consequences" if Syria used chemical weapons. He said, "A red line for us is when we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized."
Last week, however, he backed off saying, "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line" with a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons." Does it really matter about the red line? We know chemical weapons were used.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said, "There are two sides to it. What they did was horrible, you don't want it to happen again." According to WBNG-News, Schumer said he is still awaiting a series of briefings about proposed action, but felt the current proposal before Congress wouldn't pass as is.
The American people are war-weary! We have been involved in wars in the Middle East since the early 1990s, and if we go into Syria, how much longer will we be there?
Will a strategic strike against al-Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons, his military bases, his airfields, be just that, a one-time strategic strike? Can we truly believe there will be no boots on the ground once we make this strike? How much will it cost us?
Like many of us, Schumer is concerned about the economy and the cost. He told a reporter recently, "The American people really want us to focus on America, on jobs and the economy and the middle class and nobody wants to be involved in a third land war after Iraq and Afghanistan."
The prevention of another civilian attack on Syria, while still focusing on improving America's economy makes the senator question U.S. military action. "The question of how you deal with those two conflicting needs is a question that we'll have to all answer," said Schumer.
According to Sen. John McCain, there must be a guarantee of no boots on the ground. McCain said, "I promise you that if we put an American boot on the ground, I will do whatever I can to stop it, including lying down in front of Pennsylvania Avenue. I mean that." McCain assured the crowd early in his remarks this past week. "I mean that."
My question is how do we guarantee no boots on the ground? How do we minimize collateral damage if we go in for the strategic strike?
The U.N. has said any attack on Syria must have backing of the Security Council. The President has asked for congressional approval (what happens if he doesn't get it?).
I have attended meetings. I have done extensive reading and research on the situation in Syria. I have watched and listened to the hearings with John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, I'm not convinced. My questions are still not answered. If there is someone out there who can answer them and guarantee the outcomes, here they are, be my guest.
If we don't do something, then who will save future victims of the chemical attacks?
It is reported that there are at least 26 different rebel groups fighting in Syria, many of them are known to be either al-Qaida or affiliated with al-Qaida; how do we know the good guys from the bad?
If we take out al-Assad, who will be in power? Isn't it better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don't?
Kerry said if we do nothing al-Assad will continue to use chemical weapons - but who says he won't anyway?
If we strike, how can we guarantee that our strike will not cause an escalation of events for the worse?
If we don't strike will al-Assad be emboldened? How about Iran, North Korea? What message do we send by doing nothing?
If Congress says "no" should the President go ahead and strike anyway?
The other elephant in the room is today! You are reading this on the anniversary of the Twin Towers being attacked, the attack on our Ambassador in Benghazi, is it all a political show after all?
Call your elected officials and let them know your feelings. Can we really afford another war? Think about it.
Have a great day!
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org