1. A U.S. attack would both cause Syrians to rally around President Assad and also motivate extremists from other countries to enlist in his cause, thereby strengthening his hand and swelling his forces.
2. It’s not yet known for sure who is responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack. While it’s likely that it was the Assad regime, it is also possible that the opposition could have done it to win international sympathy and outside military support.
3. A U.S. attack would only intensify the cycle of violence. As Gandhi put it, “An eye for an eye makes us both blind.” A military intervention would lengthen and worsen the already-atrocious violence.
4. Unless authorized by Congress, a military strike would violate the Constitution and the War Powers Act, which stipulate that only Congress can declare war. It would also violate international law, as no such action has been authorized by the United Nations Security Council.
5. The latest poll I’ve seen shows 60 percent of the American people opposed to military intervention in Syria, with only 9 percent supporting.
6. What would be the targets? To hit chemical weapons stockpiles would release deadly poisons into the air, killing thousands more. And it would be impossible to destroy all the planes, missiles, and mortars that could be used to deliver them.
7. U.S. intervention on the side of the opposition could easily benefit the terrorist groups fighting with them, thereby bringing to power a regime even more despicable than that of Assad.
8. U.S. involvement could transform the conflict from a nasty civil war to an international conflagration, spreading to nearby countries like Iran, Lebanon and Israel. And once thus engaged, how would we exit?
9. The term “smart bombs” is an oxymoron. Many civilians would lose their lives — women, children, the elderly and infirm. Having caused so much “collateral damage” in Iraq and Afghanistan, can we afford another black eye in world public opinion — and another deep wound to our soul?
10. No, the wiser — and in the long run much more effective path — is that of diplomacy. It may be less flashy and dramatic, but what is needed at this point are peace talks, involving both the current belligerent parties, and also their backers like the U.S. and Russia. This time around for a change, let’s try flexing our negotiating muscles instead of our military ones. After the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, can’t we learn a better way?
(Doug Wingeier is a retired seminary professor and United Methodist minister who lives at Lake Junaluska.)