Column: Congress should not approve United States invasion in Syria

Last week, President Barack Obama began lobbying Congress to approve a military strike against Syria in response to allegations that President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus.  Early this week, a Senate committee approved Obama’s plan to use military force, sending the proposal to the next stage in Congress. However, when examined, the cons highly outweigh the pros, raising the question of “why did Congress approve this?”

If we were to attack, the chemical weapons depots would not be targeted, since it would be too risky, according to military personnel. Blasting open chemical weapon depositories could prompt rebel groups to gain access to these weapons and only further the usage of chemical weaponry. So these strikes would essentially be a “slap on the wrist” to Assad for committing this international crime, even though he’s gotten away with thousands beforehand. To go along with that, these military strikes would ensure that Obama is true to his word, since he claimed last year that any usage of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a “red line,” which would be followed by U.S. military action. Those seem like relatively small upsides to a massive slew of downsides. First and foremost, the United States does not need to enter into yet another conflict in the Middle East, especially one that has no direct correlation to its national security or economic interests. Assad has never made threats to the United States and is not directly affiliated with any major terrorist group in the region. Additionally, the United States does not rely on Syria for any major imports, which makes it a relative pawn in the game of global dominance. So entering into the Syrian Civil War would give America no foreseeable benefits. Additionally, even if the United States were able to oust the dictator Assad, a rebel jihadist group would gain control of the country and would not pose any major step up from the current situation.

Two more major cons present themselves regarding the potential strike on Syria. First, military action would inhibit any hopes of a truce in the upcoming years. The only way Syria could peacefully and effectively move into a more effective form of governance is through the guidance of Russia. However, if the United States were to fire upon Syria, any hopes of getting Russia’s help in setting up a democracy in Syria (which are already extremely low) practically jump out the window. Secondly, a military strike in Syria would be illegal. Not domestically, since Obama would need further approval from the Senate and the House. However, there is slim chance of the U.S. getting authorization from the United Nations Security Council regarding this attack, which would make it illegal in the eyes of the rest of the world. According to Articles 39, 42, and 51 of the U.N. Charter, military action is not legal unless a) in response to an armed attack, or b) authorized by the U.N. Military action is expressly not allowed for arms control or humanitarian purposes. And seeing as the U.S. was not attacked by Syria, and would never gain authorization from the U.N. (Russia simply wouldn’t allow it) there are no grounds for legality. And the repercussions of that would be far greater than those of Assad using chemical weapons against civilians who have already seen a death toll of nearly 110,000 before their usage. Now we can only hope that the rest of Congress sees the wrong in this attack and doesn’t follow suit with their contemporaries.