Friday, September 13, 2013

Both Macalester parties plead: Put America on the path to peace

Originally published in The Mac Weekly. Co-written with Margaret Mulligan.

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America is on the road to war. Will you do anything about it?

We will. Leaders on both the left and right side of politics here at Macalester are coming together to oppose American intervention in Syria. We oppose this war because the case presented by the administration neglects to describe the full consequences of our intervention.

President Obama is marketing this campaign as an action that puts no American lives at risk while benefiting the Syrian people by preventing or deterring the regime of Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons against its own people. Let us not debate just how accurate the reports of chemical weapon use in Syria on the part of the regime are — we will assume that these weapons were used and killed thousands, including children.

The indiscriminate killing of children and innocents is always deplorable, and we condemn this killing with the harshest of language. Nevertheless, that condemnation does not rationalize ineffective or counterproductive policy.

It is not clear that a strike will degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities to prevent the Assad regime from further using these weapons against its own people. Further, a strike may not deter the regime from further using these weapons. Even if chemical weapons cease to be used, the carnage will not cease; the regime has already killed tens of thousands of its own people with bombs and bullets.

What is guaranteed is that people will die. The regime has already begun evacuating its most critical leaders from the most likely targets of our strike. What will be left are those who have no power over policy or the war, some innocents and others simply following orders. It will be an exercise in proving a point — no crossing the “red line” that Obama described off the cuff in response to a reporter’s question and became a cornerstone of his policy toward Syria.

But in proving that flippant point, there are consequences, even besides the direct deaths caused by a military strike. In a region already skeptical of American intervention, we may legitimize Assad by casting his opposition in league with our interests. Strengthening his domestic support only serves to empower a dictator.

Further, the opposition to Assad is acting in league with extremist terrorist organizations. While the exact proportion of extremist elements within the opposition is unclear, it is certain that a significant portion of the opposition falls under this category. Further, these extremist groups, particularly Jabhat al-Nusra, are among the best financed and most organized of the opposition. These groups have terrorized villages supportive of the regime, kidnapping indiscriminately and producing their own body count of innocents. By empowering the opposition through a crippling strike on Assad’s regime, we will directly empower these extremist groups.

There are further risks for America itself, besides the risks we put upon the Syrian people through intervention. War is expensive, and it is unclear what the cost will be as we face a national debt of over $16 trillion. There is further risk of retribution through the allies of Syria, particularly Iran and its proxies, including the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Both Syrian and American lives will be threatened by our intervention.

We are encouraged by recent developments that may lead to a peaceful resolution of the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria. If it was his decision alone, President Obama would take this country to war, however misguided the proposed operation remains. Even if Congress votes him down, he may do it anyway. But if Congress approves this action, war is guaranteed.

Help us stop this operation. Call Congresswoman McCollum’s office at (651) 224-9191. Call Senator Franken at (651) 221-1016. And call Senator Klobuchar at 612-727-5220. Sign our petition. Most of all, get to their offices — we can get you a ride.

America is on the road to war. Will you do anything about it?

Margaret Mulligan and Danny Surman are the leaders of Mac Dems and MacGOP, respectively

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