There are press reports that the White House is considering missile strikes on the Assad regime in Syria to punish it for the use of chemical weapons. That is a bad idea for five reasons.
1. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is not adequate justification for direct military intervention. This dangerous doctrine, promoted at the United Nations, undermines U.S. sovereignty by arguing for an obligation of nations to intervene. As Heritage’s legal expert on sovereignty matters, Steve Groves, explains:
a doctrine that compels the United States to act to prevent atrocities occurring in other countries would be risky and imprudent. U.S. independence—hard won by the Founders and successive generations of Americans—would be compromised if the United States consented to be legally bound by the R2P doctrine. The United States needs to preserve its national sovereignty by maintaining a monopoly on the decision to deploy diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, political coercion, and especially its military forces.
2. A vital U.S. interest is not at stake. The U.S. does have an interest in the resolution of the conflict, but military force should be reserved for areas where the U.S. has a compelling need to act in defense of its own interests. There are other and more prudent options for advancing U.S. interests to help resolve the conflict.
3. It would not be a wise use of military force. Military force should be used only if there is a clear, achievable, realistic purpose. Missile strikes are unlikely to deter the Assad regime and prevent further abuses. Rather, the U.S. risks escalating its involvement in the crisis.
4. Missile attacks would only make President Obama look weaker. Much like President Clinton’s ineffective cruise missile strikes on Osama bin Laden’s terrorist camps, strikes would only be seen as a sign that the U.S. is lacking a clear, decisive course of action. The Middle East would see this as another effort from the Obama Administration to look for an “easy button” and lead from behind rather than exercise real, constructive leadership.
5. It would distract from what the U.S. should be doing. Rather than attempting to intervene directly in the conflict, the U.S. should be working in a concerted manner with other countries in the region to hasten the end of the Assad regime and deal with the refugee crisis, the resurgence of al-Qaeda, and the destabilizing efforts of Iran and Hezbollah.