Americans usually dont think much about what goes on in the rest of the world unless either something really extreme happens (like a tidal wave clobbering a nuclear power plant) or we are blowing stuff up somewhere. And so it happens that we have been paying attention to whats been going on in Syria for the last few weeks because our president has promised to blow some stuff up over there as punishment for the Syrian government using chemical weapons against its own people.
There is a long-standing international agreement barring the use of chemical and biological weapons that most of the worlds nations have signed off on, and apparently the United States is the only country willing to enforce that agreement in this case. Team America, World Police -- back in action.
There is even some talk now (with John McCain being one of the most vocal supporters) that we should go beyond a punitive surgical strike and send arms to the people who are trying to overthrow Assad. The rebel groups appear to be led by Islamic nationalists who very possibly will look to set up another one of those Islamic Republics should they successfully overthrow the current regime.
Ive seen polls that say anywhere from 20 percent to over 40 percent of Americans support launching a military strike against Syria to punish them for using chemical weapons. I dont know where these people are hiding, because I havent been able to find a single one of them. As far as I can tell, no one outside of Washington, D.C., thinks the U.S. should insert itself into the civil war in Syria, but our intrepid leaders do not seem to care.
Since Obama decided to ask Congress for its blessing on launching a strike against Syria (though he says he doesnt need it) its likely that nothing will happen before Congress returns from its lengthy summer break.
Lets hope that when they vote on this, Congress remembers that they are being asked to commit resources to another offensive Middle Eastern campaign while our military budget is being slashed to the bone. How on earth are we going to finance another war in the Middle East, even a limited one in light of our perilous financial situation? It boggles the mind.
I think its well past time that we stopped trying to be the worlds police force. If Syria has violated international law it should be taken up by the United Nations and voted on by the Security Council, and any action taken should be a joint effort of all (or at least a good many) of U.N. member nations, not just the United States. If such a resolution cant be passed, then well know this supposed international agreement banning chemical weapons is meaningless.
But I think we need to go a lot further than that. We need to bring all of our troops home from the Middle East. Wrap up the nation-building exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan as expediently as possible and let it be an end to our questionable experiment in exporting democracy.
Frankly, given our perilous financial situation, Id like to go even further and bring all of our troops home. We dont need thousands of troops stationed in places like Japan and Germany when these countries are stable, wealthy democracies that can afford to field their own militaries.
We can still have pacts with these countries (expanding the concept behind NATO would be a good place to start) that would ensure that if they are attacked we would have their back. But we dont need thousands of troops permanently stationed in Europe anymore to guard against a Soviet invasion. The world has changed and our country is teetering on the brink of financial disaster.
Instead of burning more money playing kingmaker in the Middle East, we need to reorient our military to protect our borders and stand ready to assist our allies should they be attacked by aggressor nations. Its time for the World Police Force to get its gold watch and head off into retirement.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.