I don’t usually get to ask questions at White House briefings. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for this. I’m not representing an American network so in their view there isn’t much reason to talk to me. I don’t spend enough time in the back of the room being ignored to deserve the occasional break. Or it could be I’m just not cool enough.
I’m usually fine with that, I know how the game is played and I don’t play it. But I’m not okay with it right now. There are important questions not being asked about Syria and possible US involvement. So with the hope one of the cool kids who get to ask to questions might read this, here are my thoughts on what somebody – anybody – should ask the Obama administration.
Do you know where all the chemical weapons stockpiles are in Syria? A few months ago a top Obama adviser said no. It seems to me if you can’t say where they are, you also can’t say you are 100 percent certain the Assad government controls the weapons and rockets.
The president said his goal was not to erode control of the chemical weapons. How does a US military strike make that more likely and not less?
What is your plan if you launch a strike to send a message of “don’t do it again” and chemical weapons are used again – what will you do then?
The UN charter says force can only be used for self-defence and barring that with the UN Security Council resolution. The president said he needed a UN mandate last week but the administration now says you don’t need to go to the UN. How is that not a violation of international law?
The administration says the US National Security is threatened by the possibility that the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on allies or US bases – do you have any evidence that they plan to take that step?
You’ve warned chemical weapons could be given to “terrorist groups that would harm the US” – how does a military intervention make that less likely and not more?
I’m not expressing an opinion of what the president should do. What I am saying is you are talking about involving the US military. We know what that means – people will die, the ones you want to kill and the ones you had no intention of harming.
War is not a video game, no matter how much the American media sanitises it. The president has been clear his intentions are simply to send a message, not to change the course of the war or topple the Assad government. I think the questions that should be asked are not what he intends, but what are the potential unintended consequences.
War and the tools of it are by their nature destructive and deadly. There is nothing simple about it, even if you want to tell the American people anything you do will be quick, limited and effective. Last question, can you be sure?