SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 6, 2013

Column: Drumbeat of war sounds hollow

Ann McFeatters
The Salem News

---- — The drumbeating has begun.

The people who got us into war in Iraq and Afghanistan are now clamoring for a third war. They want the U.S. to go to war against the government of Syria. They are also warning that war with Iran may be inevitable.

The reinvigorated war lust began when serious claims emerged that chemical weapons were used in Syria, where the discredited government of Bashar al-Assad has been fighting a bloody civil war with rebels who want him ousted.

President Barack Obama, who had said that use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that would bring the United States into the conflict, now demands incontrovertible evidence and proof of who did what when. Furthermore, he said that the international community must agree that chemical weapons were used.

Part of his reluctance stems from the extremist ties of some of the rebels fighting in Syria. If we arm them, will they turn on us next?

American neoconservatives who fought hard to get the U.S. into such unpopular wars as Iraq and who have begun pushing for war with Iran over its efforts to become a nuclear power are now calling Obama the political equivalent of a chicken.

Weekly Standard founder-editor Bill Kristol told Fox News that he supports those who argue that Obama’s obvious dislike of getting into another war emboldens enemies overseas.

“No one wants to go to war, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Kristol, who was a leading advocate of invading Iraq, personally has never been to war.

After the war in Vietnam, Americans said never again would they fight an unwinnable war thousands of miles away where the outcome was unknowable. It would be difficult to find many people today who would be able to justify the war in Vietnam and the loss of 58,000 American lives and wounding of 153,000 more.

Yet, here come the neocons, demanding we use military might in Syria and Iran, a huge country that makes Iraq look like a small province. Too many of these people have very short memories.

It will be increasingly difficult to find people who are able to justify the 10 years that the United States was embroiled in Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If our mission is to get rid of tyrants and dictators, as we did with Saddam Hussein, we will be at war until the end of time. Who will choose which one to go after next, and where will we get all the soldiers and money necessary?

It’s puzzling why so many people are so intent on war as a solution to mayhem abroad. Is it misguided patriotism — my country, right or wrong? Is it a fear of being seen as weak? Is it a lack of understanding of how devastating war is? Is it some kind of macho thing (although Hillary Clinton had it, too) that says I am brave and strong and right if I’m in favor of sending other people into battle?

The real question is: How do we fight evil in a world with nuclear weapons? The answer is to be found not in more killing and maiming but in economic sanctions, in diplomacy, in making clear that no country can go it alone or buck international disdain forever. That does not mean that war is never justified, but that it truly should be a last resort.

Obama is absolutely correct in stipulating that we will not go to war with Syria unless the bulk of the international community agrees that it is necessary. He is not a chicken, and this is not “Game of Thrones.”

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Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.