Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Robert Reich

The slippery slope of a strike on Syria

A strike on Syria may well cause more havoc in that tinder-box region of the world by unleashing still more hatred for America, the West, and for Israel, and more recruits to terrorism, Reich writes.

By Guest blogger / September 3, 2013

President Barack Obama makes a statement about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Saturday.

Evan Vucci/AP/File

Enlarge

Even if the President musters enough votes to strike Syria, at what political cost? Any president has a limited amount of political capital to mobilize support for his agenda, in Congress and, more fundamentally, with the American people. This is especially true of a president in his second term of office. Which makes President Obama’s campaign to strike Syria all the more mystifying.

Skip to next paragraph

Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Recent posts

President Obama’s domestic agenda is already precarious: implementing the Affordable Care Act, ensuring the Dodd-Frank Act adequately constrains Wall Street, raising the minimum wage, saving Social Security and Medicare from the Republican right as well as deficit hawks in the Democratic Party, ending the sequester and reviving programs critical to America’s poor, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and, above all, crafting a strong recovery. 

Time and again we have seen domestic agendas succumb to military adventures abroad — both because the military-industrial-congressio nal complex drains money that might otherwise be used for domestic goals, and because the public’s attention is diverted from urgent problems at home to exigencies elsewhere around the globe. 

It would be one thing if a strike on Syria was critical to America’s future, or even the future of the Middle East. But it is not. In fact, a strike on Syria may well cause more havoc in that tinder-box region of the world by unleashing still more hatred for America, the West, and for Israel, and more recruits to terrorism. Strikes are never surgical; civilians are inevitably killed. Moreover, the anti-Assad forces have shown themselves to be every bit as ruthless as Assad, with closer ties to terrorist networks.

Using chemical weapons against one’s own innocent civilians is a crime against humanity, to be sure, but the United States cannot be the world’s only policeman. The UN Security Council won’t support us, we can’t muster NATO, Great Britain and Germany will not join us. Dictatorial regimes are doing horrendous things to their people in many places around the world. It would be folly for us to believe we could stop it all.

Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are now arguing that a failure to act against Syria will embolden enemies of Israel like Iran and Hezbollah, and send a signal to Iran that the United States would tolerate the fielding of a nuclear device. This is almost the same sort of specious argument — America’s credibility at stake, and if we don’t act we embolden our enemies and the enemies of our allies — used by George W. Bush to justify toppling Saddam Hussein, and, decades before that, by Lyndon Johnson to justify a tragic war in Vietnam.

It has proven to be a slippery slope: Once we take military action, any subsequent failure to follow up or prevent gains by the other side is seen as an even larger sign of our weakness, further emboldening our enemies.

Hopefully, Congress will see the wisdom of averting this slope. 

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!