He did not oppose all wars, he forcefully pointed out, but he opposed “a dumb war. A rash war.” No question that Saddam Hussein was “a brutal man,” said Obama, “... who butchers his own people to secure his own power.” But Obama also pointed out, Saddam “... poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States.”
“(A)n invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East,” Obama said, “and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida.”
The circumstances in Syria are different. Iraq, for example, did not have the weapons of mass destruction that our bogus intelligence reports said they did. By contrast, on Aug. 21 a poison-gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria’s capital, killed more than 1,400 civilians.
But the “clear rationale,” clear goals and “strong international support” that separates smart policy from “dumb” wars is lacking. The errors that led to the tragic war in Iraq and a general war weariness throughout the West have raised the standards of proof that Obama has to meet to wage new military in the Middle East, based on Syria’s brutal use of banned weapons.
In more than three hours of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on whether to authorize the use of military force against Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left a lot of important questions unanswered.
They expressed much greater certainty about the quality of the intelligence that confirmed Syria’s chemical weapons attacks than about what might happen after the proposed missile strikes were conducted.
A lack of action would embolden Iran and other dangerous regimes, Kerry argued, but all three became rather vague about questions of possible mission creep after the initial operation was conducted.