Our Syrian War

In deepening Syrian quagmire, U.S. seeks both allies and enemies

By William Boardman  27 March 13  Reader Supported News

Syrian rebels attend a training session conducted by US intelligence officers in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria. (photo: Muhammed Muheisen/AP) Syrian rebels attend a training session conducted by US intelligence officers in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria. (photo: Muhammed Muheisen/AP)
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o Declaration of War Needed, Times Makes Official Announcement

There were no official war bulletins about Syria from the White House last week, but the news is just as official as if there were: the United States is now at war in Syria.
In fact, the United States has been at war in Syria for quite awhile now, but it wasn’t until March 25, 2013, that the New York Times made the official announcement under a page one headline:

Arms Airlift to Syria Rebel Expands, With C.I.A. Aid

The sub-head explained that “Lethal Assistance Reaches Assad’s Foes on Jordanian, Saudi and Qattari Planes,” while the body of the story went on to say that the C.I.A.’s role consisted primarily of shopping for the weapons and choosing who among the fractious rebel groups should get armed with U.S. help.
At this point, the U.S. is only at war in Syria, not at war with Syria, nor at war with anyone else, outside of Afghanistan – and even there the enemy is hard to specify, which leads to the kind of random killing that fails to endear us to the local population.
Congress’s Role Is to Have No Meaningful Role
Congress has not acted with regard to Syria, but as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said a few days before the Times announcement, he hopes the President would consult with Congressional leaders before taking any military action, apparently unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge, that the country is already in a war in Syria.

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Not that Congress shows much reluctance to get in on the fighting in Syria, as several members used the wholly-unconfirmed rumor of Syrian government use of chemical weapons as an opportunity to make bellicose noises, while at the same time complaining about the way the President all but ignored them when he involved the U.S. in the Libya hostilities.
On March 20, Senator John McCain and five others offered a Senate resolution outlining the approach the Obama administration should take in the war in Syria. The resolution included support for sending weapons to unspecified segments of “the people of Syria” while also cautioning against letting weapons or other support go to unspecified “individuals in Syria who are aligned with al Qaeda….”
Four days later the senators could read in the Times that their advice had already been carried out, for more than a year.
2001 Vote Gave President Permanent War Power
The vagueness of the Senate resolution underscores the nature of the military opportunities inherent in involving America in war in Syria, because of so many possible sides to be on within a relatively small area, and no compelling reason to take just one side.
The problem for Congress if it wants to be involved in American war-making as anything more than cheerleaders (and a few opponents) is that, institutionally, Congress abdicated its constitutional authority on September 14, 2001, and has made no serious effort to correct the decision since.
Acting in an atmosphere of unthinking panic three days after the World Trade Center collapsed, Congress passed the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” that has paved the way for the United States to make war pretty much at the president’s will, from Afghanistan to Libya and Yemen, and now to Syria. The bill provides, in its primary section:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

A second, also short section provides pre-authorization for all circumstances in which the president might decide to use military force, thereby satisfying in advance the terms of the War Powers Act that was passed in hope of keeping future presidents from lying us into war as they did in Viet-Nam.
Congressional Abdication Continues Unchallenged
Congress almost unanimously abdicated its constitutional authority to declare war. The vote in the Senate was 98-0 (with Jesse Helms and Larry Craig present but not voting). In the House, where ten members didn’t vote, the bill passed by 420-1. Only Barbara Lee, D-Calif., voted Nay.
And now the U.S. is in a war in Syria, to no apparent stated purpose, but within constitutional parameters established by Congress more than a decade ago. And the U.S. has been at war in Syria at least for 15 months, according to the Times, providing lethal aid to our hand-picked recipients at the same time the Obama administration assured us we would supply only non-lethal aid.
Outside Syria, the U.S. has now aligned itself with thuggish regimes in Saudi Arabia and Qattar, as well as a Jordanian monarch who went to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.
The U.S. rationale, of course, is that Americans need to thwart Russian and Iranian support for the thuggish government of Syria, although it seems Iranians and Iraqis at least have also chosen some factions to support among the rebels.
At the moment, it seems impossible to know in any comprehensive way what countries outside Syria are supporting which faction or factions, including the government and its factions inside Syria, to what extent with what means.
What does seem clear is that Syria’s multi-faceted civil war offers a ready-made quagmire surrounded by dominos ready to fall in all directions.
It’s a catastrophic situation, but there are forces on all sides who should be able to make it worse.

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By Published On: March 29th, 20131 Comment

One Comment

  1. WAMMToday July 28, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    […] WILLIAM BOARDMAN> OUR SYRIAN WAR […]

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