09/08/2013 04:16 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2013

Jumping Into Wars: 1812, 1898, 1964, 2003. Et maintenant?

I recall the powerful, hoarse voice in the opening line of Gilbert Bécaud's magnificent song (which became "What Now My Love," in English) -- "Et maintentant, que vais-je faire" ("And now, what am I going to do"?) - as I think of the sudden predicament in which our country has landed itself as a result of chemical weapons used by a faraway country against its own people. Can we not take a lesson from our own history of jumping into wars, as those salient dates above testify?

The American people do not want another war in the Muslim world, that is clear. The Congress should reflect this by voting against President Obama's referral of a proposed attack on Syria. It is ridiculous to assume that such a vote would destroy America's credibility and cripple the remaining years of the Obama presidency. Look at the example of the British Prime Minister who recently lost a comparable vote in the House of Commons. As the Financial Times reported in its latest weekend edition, "David Cameron struck back in lyrical fashion yesterday to criticism that Britain's influence has diminished, delivering an elegiac hymn at the G20 summit to the "small island" that gave the world everything from cricket to the worldwide web, and Elgar to One Direction." (I always thought that the Internet was created by the U.S. Air Force, but this may be a reflection of what the Europeans like to think of as American provincialism).

The New York Times noted on 8 September that, "Since the mandate of the United Nations inspectors is limited to establishing whether a chemical attack took place, and not who carried it out, the Obama administration has repeatedly asserted that the United Nations evaluation is irrelevant". True, but the administration has yet to demonstrate publicly that the chain of responsibility goes all the way up to Bashar al-Assad (who will deny involvement in an interview with Charlie Rose to be aired on 9 September). To resurrect a phrase from the 1980's, "Where's the beef"?