As I brace myself for September baseball, I’ll admit that I’m also a bit tense about the prospect of the U.S. getting involved in Syria. A decade ago we went into Iraq without the backing of our allies and the UN because we feared that Saddam Hussein was armed to the teeth with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and was connected to Al-Qaeda. We knew he had the capability for all of these WMDs not because we were psychic, but because we had looked the other way when he used these weapons on Iranians. Still, our intelligence about his then-current stockpile was faulty and we spent nearly ten years fighting a war that many Americans believe was a mistake.
Today we have a similar set of circumstances – the Syrian government may or may not have used chemical weapons on its own people. Hideous. Terrifying. Criminal. Is the evidence complete and incontrovertible? Apparently not since the UN and the British government have both declined to support a military action. And yet the Obama administration presses ahead – with a hubris that seems to come with the china at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Today the administration is insisting that they do not need the approval of Congress to move ahead. Haven’t we been here before? “Go it alone” doesn’t work on the world stage and it’s not going to work for President Obama either. Dragging the U.S. into war in another country that many can’t find on a map will flip congressional districts like pancakes in 2014 and could rearrange the Senate as well. More importantly, it could irreparably alter our standing with the rest of the world.
I recently spent some time in England and had the opportunity to go to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms in London. It was fascinating to be in the brain center of the British war effort and to see how they lived and worked during this terrifying time in their history. As an American it was touching to understand the appreciation the British people felt – and feel – for our ‘greatest generation.” It was a humbling experience and a good reminder that our worldview is ours alone. Perhaps we would all be better served if the United States sat on the bench this time and gave someone else a chance to swing for the fences. Sometimes remembering the gruesome disappointments of the past is the best way to avoid them in the future.