I’m not quite sure what the United States plans to do has ever been done before without serious repercussions. I know I’m not suppose to think like this, but sometimes I like to look for historical precedents to figure out what something planned might turn into. I don’t seem to be able to put my finger on anything that quite resembles what we are about to do.
Let me first start by saying what we plan to do is an act of war. The laws of the United States, U.S. Code, 18 USC 2331 states: “the term “act of war” means any act occurring in the course of — (B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations . . . ” So we must be aware that our bombing of Syria with cruise missiles is an act of war against Syria.
In thinking back, one analogous act that springs to mind happened in December 7, 1941, the day that lives in infamy. The predecessor to missiles, air planes, were used by the Japanese to attack us at Pearl Harbor. Well we know what the result of that was.
Senator Kerry anxiously advocating war made a facile attempt to link Syria’s action with that date by saying yesterday our failure to attack “would live in infamy.” You can always tell the validity of a planned action by the rhetoric surrounding it. The more outlandish and inflammatory, the less justifiable it is.
We did attack Iraq and Afghanistan with cruise missiles but that was to weaken the enemy forces like we used to do with battle ships or other navy guns prior to our going in with our ground forces. We are told that this time that’s not our intent.
We hear the euphemism that is much abhorred by me of “boots on the ground” which covers up the idea of young American men and women being put at risk. We’ve been assured that we will not endanger American lives with our act of war. I wonder if the Japan assured its people of the same thing prior to Pearl Harbor.
As one day is placed on the next we see that our war act is no longer being done to punish Assad for the use of chemical weapons but is being done to benefit the rebels by degrading Assad’s ability to fight. Not only that, the mission creep now includes forcing Assad to the bargaining table where he is expected to engage in a “negotiated transition” where Bashar Assad bargains his away his right to be president of Syria, an unlikely goal if ever I heard one especially given his Russian and Iranian sponsors.
The only precedence I see for what we now intend is President Clinton’s August 20, 1998 cruise missile attack on Sudan and Afghanistan, two nations of limited military ability and no backers. A former CIA station chief in Sudan Milt Beardon said of those strikes: “Last August 20, we struck with missiles two Islamic states–one totally failed state, Afghanistan, and a nearly [failed state], the Sudan. My reaction is, ‘Dear God, what do they know? What is this about?'”
Neither Sudan nor Afghanistan immediately responded to our attacks. They simply couldn’t. They had no allies nor did they have any military capability to do so.
Yet we should have learned from our 1998 attack on Afghanistan. A 2008 report from the National Security Archives notes: “in retrospect, the August 20 retaliatory cruise missile strikes may have caused long-term political harm to U.S. national security and counterterrorism interests.” It also noted: “the military action may have sharpened Afghan animosity towards Washington” and that “If Kandahar could have retaliated with similar strikes against Washington, it would have.”
Once the president launches this September attack, I hope Syria understands that it is supposed to take it like a good sport and not do anything to reciprocate. Judging from the secretary of state’s argument, the attack is predicated on the idea that the Syrians must accept that we Americans have the right to kill them and we, and our friends, are to suffer no consequences.
The sentiment of those backing this act seems to be that we will go to war against Syria, bomb it and there will be no blow back even though there is no real precedent to support that belief. As we’ve seen the impoverished nation of Afghanistan wanted to strike back at Washington just because we launched missiles against an Al Qaeda training base in its country. Imagine the reaction of the Syrian government.
It seems to me the American belief that it can go about willy-nilly bombing countries and killing others without incurring any adverse consequences makes as much sense as Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken’s statement that Obama plans to bomb Assad to chase him to the negotiation table where he will give up his power.