Sunday, April 15, 2018

On Syria

Let me state, from the outset and for the record, that I believe the current Administration faces legitimate legitimacy issues.  Any Administration that obtains office without securing even the leanest plurality of the popular vote (Adams 1824, Hayes 1876, Harrison 1888, Bush 2000, and Trump 2016) is similarly afflicted.  Second, the GOP has actively been the party of disenfranchisement for many years now, operating in and through the states to purge voters from the rolls.  Such nefarious acts performed by Republican operatives and their hirelings, as chronicled by such news outlets as Mother Jones, helped deliver Wisconsin for Trump in the last presidential election.  Third, the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin clearly had a favorite son in the ’16 presidential race and Russian interference in our electoral process cannot be denied.  Fourth and far from finally, we have a president who, through word and deed, seems determined to govern like a petulant tinhorn and who has seemingly ignored or subverted the Oath of Office repeatedly since he swore the Oath on January 20, 2017.  Mr. Trump should not be President and, for the good of the country, he should resign immediately or be impeached and convicted as soon as possible.

That being stated, we turn to the recent airstrikes in Syria against the Assad regime.  Some of my comrades on the Democratic left have excoriated this Administration (as well as the May and Macron governments) for conducting a campaign of imperialist aggression.  They are not incorrect, but they are also missing the point. Social democrats and democratic socialists (so similar yet so different) as well as traditional Democratic progressives need to recognize that President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, while he called himself a “socialist,” is a murderous despotic thug who has, according to the United Nations, been implicated in involvement in war crimes.  He is no friend of the people. And, in such instances, someone must stand up and take action on behalf of those oppressed by the Assad government.  Frankly, regime change should be on the table.  The problem is, who can be trusted to bring about regime change in a way that doesn’t lead to even more civilian casualties in a nation that has been embroiled in a Civil War for over 7 years (and counting)?  Given a range of terrible options and regional actors (notably including Russia and Iran) that are hell-bent on promoting their narrow interests and the protection of the Assad dictatorship, it is unfortunate that we can only strike at Syria’s “chemical weapons infrastructure.”  Assad needs to go.

In an ideal world, we would be seeking a diplomatic solution to this long, bloody conflict.  Perhaps a different American president could have found a way to work with the U.N., with our allies, with Russia, and with Iran to find a solution that would have removed Assad and brought about a cessation of hostilities.  Let us not forget the many victims of this conflict, the average people who have been forced to become refugees and those who still live in Syria, afraid for their lives and facing an uncertain future.  It is a tragedy that such people cannot look to the United States for deliverance.

Of course, this crisis has spanned two Presidencies now.  The Obama Administration must bear a measure of responsibility for not finding a solution to this dire situation.  That said, I can’t help but believe that a Clinton Administration would have been far better equipped than the current one to find a treatment to this cancer.  At the very least, in this alternative universe, there would likely have been an A-Team in place at State, at Defense, at our other national security and diplomatic agencies instead of our current government-by-whim, executed by some professionals but far too many talentless hacks and sycophants who have no business in public service.

Which brings me to one last point.  For far too long, Democratic and Republican Administrations alike have side-stepped the war-making powers reserved for Congress in Article One of the United States Constitution.  It is well-past time for a re-visitation of the War Powers Act of 1973 to ensure that the American Congress exercises its proper Constitutional function.  In times like these in particular, we need as many safeguards in place as possible to prevent a dangerous “Commander-in-Chief” from taking us over the cliff. 

I would hope that my brothers and sisters would agree with me that reining in executive power is consistent with the democratic principle of checking arbitrary authority and ensuring that the consent of the governed drives our policy-making… for it is through the people, and only through the people, that governments find their legitimacy.

In solidarity.


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