CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- President Obama made his case to the nation that military strikes against Syria are warranted. We are to now ponder the implications of inaction. I must be absolutely clear, I am not opining for any course of action. The framework in which we approach this consequential decision perturbs me. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar and concerning.
Firstly, the importance of such a decision cannot be overstated. We seem calloused to the stories of military causalities; they are in the background of our lives. When society does not understand the implications of military engagement, insensitively ignorant statements that diminish the severity and importance of such action, like, "'Boots on the ground' or not, let's not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers" are predominant.
Secondly, we need to be forthcoming about our decision. I am completely flummoxed by the Foreign Relations Committee member, Sen. McCain's lack of diligence given his role and responsibility. While discussing the possible use of chemical weapons is not the time to play Internet poker on an iPhone. He has a responsibility to oversight. I can only assume he already knows what decision he is going to make despite the evidence. Such an opportunity warrants overwhelming consideration of the monumental decision.
Thirdly, I have purposefully not used the word "war," as have our policymakers. Secretary Kerry said, "I don't believe this is taking America to war in the traditional sense." The argument is that the strike would be a limited and proportional response to deter further chemical weapons usage. He also said that the proposed resolution would authorize a second strike if needed. This is an acknowledgement of potential escalation. Moreover, what constitutes "need"?
Is a clearer definition of war necessitated, one that is current in the realities of present conflicts and pays attention to technology? Are not missile strikes an ergo de facto declaration of war? War cannot simply be boots on the ground? What is our hesitancy in using the word war?
Maybe it leaves substantive gaps in ascertaining our responsibilities, which makes it easier to sell to Congress, the public, and international communities. Not saying war changes the conversation and eliminates an important aspect of the debate -- strategy, consequences, and policy trajectories. The constitution fractured our governmental system to purposefully thwart such ambition. We cannot skirt around this constitutional reality because it does not align with an administration's policy ambition.
Finally, deciding to strike Syria may be needed, but it must be a decision that supersedes party politics and the demands of special interests. It must be about the general welfare and security and not a purposeful contrast to governmental responses to Middle Eastern despots-Democrats (Syria) and Republicans (Iraq). I hope that this is not about a quid pro quo for special interests. Those who voted yes for the resolution to strike received 83% more money from the defense industry. Guess which senator received the most, the one not paying attention -- McCain.
I urge us to consider, with great trepidation, the implications of military action. We must be honest about what is happening. We might as well be hearing words like "yellow-cake," "aluminum tubes," "WMDs," and "slam-dunk." 'The missile strikes on Syria are an act of war, which may be warranted and necessary. But, this decision is not simplistic; it must be thoroughly considered. We have to stop undermining it with metaphors of bullies, which completely discombobulates the situation. Engaging Syria could have lasting consequences, as we have seen the last 10 years, for the American public and constitutional government. To do or say anything else is irresponsible and intellectually dishonest.
Arthur is an assistant professor of political science at West Virginia State University.