Why We Shouldn’t Attack Syria

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Sun, Sep 8, 2013

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Talking Points by Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies 


  • We can call for a second UN weapons inspection team, to determine who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.
  • We can recommend that whoever is found responsible be brought to justice at the International Criminal Court, understanding that timing of such indictments might require adjustment to take into account ceasefire negotiations in Syria.
  • The US (maybe with Russia) can call for a meeting of the signers of the Convention Against Chemical Weapons – to decide collectively how to respond.
  • Most important, we must urgently to help end the war in Syria, starting with a ceasefire and arms embargo on all sides. Russia, Iran, and others must stop arming and funding the Syrian regime.  Washington, Saudi Arabia and other US allies must stop arming and funding the armed Syrian opposition.  Washington may have to threaten the Saudis and Qataris that if they don’t stop, we will cancel all existing weapons contracts with them.


  • International law, the UN Charter, allows military action only in two cases – immediate self-defense or authorization by the Security Council.
  • Syria hasn’t attacked or threatened the U.S., so there’s no self-defense claim. And the Security Council hasn’t authorized force, and likely won’t. The UN Charter deliberately makes it really hard to get all the major powers to agree on going to war.
  • U.S. law says only Congress can declare war – President Obama has asked Congress for approval, but claims he has the right to go ahead even if they vote no. That would violate the Constitution – and with or without Congressional approval, a military strike would still violate international law.


  • Military strikes threaten harm to Syrian civilians – the Pentagon admits cruise missiles aren’t always accurate.  And the Syrian government is reportedly moving more military offices to populated areas, increasing the likelihood of civilian casualties.
  • The Obama administration admits its planned “limited surgical strikes” won’t do anything to bring the horrifying Syrian civil war to an end any quicker.


  • Military action will increase the levels of violence and instability inside Syria, within the region, and potentially even globally.
  • Extremist forces in the region have the most to gain from military strikes, which will use the direct US involvement as a recruitment tool and potential target.
  • Syrian civilians could face greater repression by the government in retaliation for US military strikes, as happened in Kosovo in 1999 when many more Kosovars were thrown out of their homes after the US/NATO bombing began.
  • Military strikes could fuel escalation of all five wars underway in Syria: the civil war, the regional power war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the global war of words between the US and Russia, the sectarian war between Shi’a and Sunnis, and the war over nuclear policy between the US/Israel and Iran – all now being fought to the last Syrian.


  • If Syria retaliates against US troops or ships, or US bases in neighboring countries, or Israel, it is almost certain the US response would risk regional escalation and a dramatic expansion of US involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Adapted from “Striking Syria: Illegal, Immoral, and Dangerous” by Phyllis Bennis on Aljazeera

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  • Thomas Hofer

    I agree with the above. Let’s get Congress to stop this!

  • Aimadigithat

    Indeedm, dont intervene.
    Fighting and killing is a fine islamic tradition that goes all the way back to the Prophet [PBUH].
    Intervening is like not respecting their culture.
    Always respect other cultures.

  • Suzanne Reny

    You people have a very simplistic view of history. How about taking off the rose colored glasses you have on and look at the world without them. You may see the world as it is, not as you would have it be. Wake up, the world is sometimes a horrible place with horrible people in it, would you have confronted Hitler with flowers and placards? How else do you suggest we deal with the horror called ISIS or ISIL? All you succeed in doing with these pointless demonstrations is show these monsters your weakness and your willful ignorance to the peril we face. You are nothing but simpleminded idiots if you think we’ll face this with kind words. Ask the Christians in the Middle East how turning the other cheek has worked out for them so far. The only safe place left for them is Israel. You would be better off joining the fight before we, as women, are left to defend ourselves against these madmen.

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