For once, I would love to hear a government official reject a call to war because it is immoral; because we have greater needs here at home that require our attention and our funds; because we're already $1 trillion poorer due to these endless, mindless wars; because America should not be policing the world; because we refuse to enrich the military industrial complex while impoverishing our nation; because endless wars will never result in peace; because we have meddled enough in foreign policy in the Middle East and cannot risk any further blowback; because we're sick and tired of fomenting civil wars in far-flung places; because we're not going to assist rebel fighters in overthrowing a foreign government, only to later unseat those same forces when they can't be controlled; because using the overused fear tactic about "weapons of mass destruction" doesn't carry much weight anymore; because the only "compelling national security interest" right now is taking back control of our run-away government; because, in the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, "When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die"; because while there may be causes worth dying for, there are none worth killing for; because Gandhi was right when he asked, "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?"; because all war is a crime; and because there are never any winners in war, only losers.
Instead, we hear the same sorry lines about "national security interests," "the costs of doing nothing" and "show[ing] the world that America keeps our commitments" trotted out by those who have either been bought out by the defense industry or are so far removed from war's terrible consequences that the decision to go to war is reduced to little more than policy debates and those directly impacted are little more than pawns on a chess board.
So, what about Syria?
First, make no mistake, whether you're talking about limited military strikes with no "boots on the ground" as President Obama and Congress are suggesting, or a full-on tactical invasion and occupation, it still constitutes an act of war.
Second, just as it seemed as if we might be able to bring our troops home and put an end to the $1 trillion hemorrhaging caused by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama starts banging the war drums against Syria. No matter what the politicians say about the need for military action to set an example, send a message to terrorists, and show support for our "friends" in Israel and elsewhere, Americans are tired of these endless wars.
Third, we need to get out of the toppling dictators and empowering rebels game. Either we're not very good at it, or we're attempting to ensure that there's always a demand for the weapons we're so eager to produce and supply to the rest of the world.
Fourth, we need to stop letting armament manufacturers dictate our foreign policy. It's been going on too long, and all we have to show for it is war and more war. Recognizing this, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's final advice to the incoming president in January 1961 was to beware of the military-industrial complex. The complex had, in effect, encouraged the Cold War arms race and reckless military adventures, which eventually led to the Vietnam debacle. It's no coincidence that this call for military intervention in Syria, aimed at fattening the defense budget, comes in the midst of automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon -- cuts opposed by Obama, the defense industry, and McCain, among others.
Fifth, enough with the outrage over the use of weapons of mass destruction, already. Remember, that was the Bush administration's rationale for attacking Iraq, and it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction.
Sixth, banging the war drums and continuing to act the bully does little to advance peace or preserve national security. It will definitely result in blowback, however. As Tariq Ali noted in his excellent treatise on the Islamic mind, The Clash of Fundamentalism: Crusades, Jihad, and Modernity (Verso, 2002):
To fight tyranny and oppression by using tyrannical and oppressive means, to combat a single-minded and ruthless fanaticism by becoming equally fanatical and ruthless, will not further the cause of justice or bring about a meaningful democracy. It can only prolong the cycle of violence.
Seventh, we need to stop spending money we don't have on wars we can't win that leave us in hock to foreign debt-holders such as China. At roughly $729 billion this past year (which does not include an additional $100 billion in benefits for veterans), the U.S. military budget has skyrocketed out of all proportion. In fact, the U.S. spent more on its military in 2011 than the 13 highest-ranking nations with big defense budgets combined.
Eighth, Bob Dylan was right -- we are masters of war. Fifty years after 21-year-old Bob Dylan penned his diatribe against war profiteering, "Masters of War," it continues to ring true in a world armed to the teeth with U.S. government-financed weapons. The United States is the leading international supplier of armaments, some of which inevitably end up in our enemies' hands, as well as those of terrorists.
Ninth, our claim to the moral high ground in this Syria discussion is nothing short of hypocritical given our historic use of weapons widely condemned by the global community. As journalist Andrea Germanos reports:
From cluster bombs to depleted uranium to napalm, recent history of U.S. warfare shows a trail of weapons leaving long-lasting civilian harm... According to the Cluster Munition Coalition, from the 1960s to 2006, the U.S. dropped cluster bombs on Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
And finally, as Albert Einstein recognized, "Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war." This is not about what Obama wants, or what Congress agrees to -- the decision to go to war ultimately rests with the American people. We need to say no to war.
Follow John W. Whitehead on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rutherford_inst