President Suffers from Conflict Envy

President Obama has been feeling inadequate.  He is afraid that he does measure up to his predecessor because he has not dragged us into one protracted, expensive, pointless war, much less two.  The Libyan affair was successful, in that Moammar Ghaddafi was overthrown, but it was too quick and easy.  So far, the President has nothing to his credit to compare with Afghanistan and Iraq.  U.S. arms manufacturers and defense contractors need an outlet for their goods and services, or their idle personnel and excess munitions inventory may be misused domestically to overthow the U.S. government instead of being used constructively to overthrow foreign governments.

What is an ambitious Commander-in-Chief to do?  The Department of Homeland Security has been too effective.  We have not had a big enough terrorist attack to justify blowing up another country.  There has to be a serious misdeed that the President can use to justify the use of all those cruise missiles, bombs and drones and no foreign government has been congenial enough to provide cause for a new war: Iran and North Korea keep throwing darts at the rest of the world, but have refrained from tossing a hand grenade, while governments in the Middle East are happy to kill only their own citizens, for the most part.  POTUS did the only thing he could do – draw a line in the dirt and dare Bashar al-Assad to cross it.

The “Red Line” is meaningless.  There have been upwards of 100,000 casualties in Syria since the Arab Spring began in 2011.  The August 21, 2013 gas attack killed less than 1% of that number.  It is like having a neighbor who beats his wife and children daily and doing nothing until he kicks his dog.

Chemical weapons are nasty, but so are other munitions.  The U.S. is not wearing a white hat here.  We use manned aircraft and drones to fire anti-personnel weapons at targets where there are civilians.

“Anti-personnel weapons” is a euphemism for bombs and missiles that explode and spread super-hot substances and shrapnel.  Incendiary agents include napalm, a gel that continues to burn when it lands on people and animals; thermite, which burns to produce molten iron; and white phosphorus, which burns at 1,500̊ F. and can re-ignite when bandages are removed.  Shrapnel is jagged pieces of metal flying at the speed of sound.  Anyone not killed outright by an anti-personnel weapon will be seriously and agonizingly maimed.  U.S. munitions from the Viet Nam conflict killed or injured 500 people in Indochina in 2012, alone, and we have not signed the anti-land-mine treaty.  We are free to use land mines against civilian populations and have done so.  We supply half the world’s tyrants with the weapons they use to kill their own people.  If Syria were our client instead of Iran’s and Russia’s, there would be no talk in the White House about red lines.

The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is not a nice thing to do, but it is not justification for U.S. offensive action.  It is not a major departure from the pattern of killing civilians by the Syrian government.  More importantly, the U.S. has no basis for its holier-than-thou attitude.

There is an international body with responsibility for policing human rights violations, the United Nations.  Russia and Iran are blocking action against Assad in the Security Council, but the General Assembly can take up the matter.  Instead of trying to be the world’s Lone Ranger, Pres. Obama and the U.S. government must throw its weight behind the U.N. and cooperate with that organization to enforce human rights.  That is the only way there will be real improvement.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2013 John B. Payne, Attorney

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