Thursday, Nov 27, 2014
Columns

Of logic, rationale, war and lawyers


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Most of what is today being said and written about President Obama's widely unpopular proposed military attack on Syria is irrational and illogical.

That is due primarily, so I think, to the fact that lawyers (i.e, most government officials, including the president) and journalists (often products of liberal and irrational liberal arts colleges) are generally incapable of using logic or rationale.

But if one does apply those valuable tools of reason to the current controversial situation in Syria, it becomes crystal clear that we have no excuse nor justification for getting involved in the messy, confused, battles raging over there.

The apparent basis for ordering the launch of scores of million-dollar missiles against Syrian targets is to punish that nation's government for allegedly having used a chemical agent (in this case, a toxic gas) in their war against an unorganized group of disparate insurgents seeking to take control of Syria, for varying devious objectives.

Even if one or more of the shadowy combatants, or the Syrian government forces, used poison gas, which resulted in killing a thousand or so civilians, what's so particularly unacceptable about that?

In what way is that worse than our own use of chemical weapons (napalm and white phosphorus incendiary bombs) to turn a residential suburb of Tokyo into an inferno that choked and burned alive an estimated 100,000 civilians (quite likely, most of them were women and children) during two hellish nights in 1945?

Perhaps "might does make right," because no one then took advantage of that singularly terrible act of war and threatened to punish us; nor has history attempted to criticize those incidents of use of weapons of mass destruction on civilian targets. Seems to me that we're being hypocritical in loudly denouncing Syria for killing a thousand or so, when, not so long ago, we killed at least a half-million civilians, by inherently imprecise aerial bombing of cities.

No, I am not in any way condemning the United States for using means such as aerial bombardment in fighting to win a war that it didn't start or want. My point is: war is so fundamentally wrong, no matter how viewed, that it is impossible to make rules and laws governing its conduct.

The simple objective of warfare is to destroy an enemy's will or ability to resist your dominance, or else to force them to cease attacking you. That is accomplished by destroying their infrastructure, and/or killing or maiming their adult population. In that straightforward process, many "innocents" die; one uses whatever weapons he may have to accomplish that end as quickly as possible.

Do soldiers not use available machine guns on an enemy attacking with only single-shot rifles? Is the use of artillery barbaric, savage or unforgivable simply because the enemy has none? Wars are won by using the best, most effective, weapons and tactics available. Is there really any significant difference in gutting a man with a bayonet, frying him with a flamethrower or choking him with gas? Does anyone really need to be reminded that we brought World War II to a quick end by using the new atomic bombs on Japan, causing agonizing deaths of an estimated 150,000 civilians (again, mostly women and children). Why are we so anti-chemical weapons, such as recently deployed in Syria, yet are seemingly OK with tossing an impersonal, fragmentation grenade through a window without knowing who is inside the building, or squirting a stream of flaming gel into a cave without first ascertaining that the place was being used as a refuge for women and children? Yes, war is fundamentally amoral, so trying to make rules for its conduct is a fool's errand.

Our very nation was, in a manner of speaking, founded on the violation of existent rules of war. Colonials, from Lexington and Concord, were roundly criticized by the British and French for "not fighting fair" during our Revolutionary War. We rebels didn't stand up in a line, on an open field, and fire muskets at similar lines of the British, as "civilized" armies were expected to do. Instead, our Minutemen fanned out in forests lining roads marched by tight formations of British soldiers, clad in bright red coats. We fired from behind the cover of rock walls or out of dark barn windows. We won because we didn't make the mistake of fighting by whatever rules then seemed to exist. We fought to win.

Then there's the matter of initiating an "act of war" on an independent nation. Our president and the entire Congress labeled Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor as "an act of war," and therefore declared war on the Empire of Japan. Isn't a launch of even one missile from U.S. ships into Syria similarly an act of war? Of course it is. We were at war with Libya, just as with Iraq, although we put no "boots on the ground" in Libya; we'll be at war with Syria if we use military force in any violent or deadly attack against any part of that sovereign nation.

Most of us today, wisely want no more wars: we have, in just my lifetime, made war against a dozen nations that had not attacked us; were not even threatening to do so. Names such as Korea and Vietnam may come to mind, but there also were Cuba, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. None of those wars did anything to help us, or much of anyone else. It's clearly well past time for us get out of the business of trying to be the world's SWAT team. Let us hope, and work to ensure, that President Obama will cease trying to act like a macho leader of the A-Team, and open his eyes to the complete lack of justification for firing even one bullet into Syria.

President Obama's most formative years were surely those he spent as a student in Harvard, which is renown for its spaced-out, pie-in-the-sky liberal philosophy. When surprisingly-elected as president, the young Obama had no meaningful experience in anything other than "community organizing," which is of no constructive use, in any way, to anything or anyone. As a lawyer, he was as poorly equipped to lead a nation. as anyone could have been. His appeal to punish Syria for using illegal weapons of mass destruction is right out of Harvard law school: irrational, baseless, illogical, but crafted to playing with human emotions. Makes one wonder just who is paying his legal fee?

The really scary part of all this is in considering that an inexperienced, untrained politician may really believe himself to be justified in acting as judge, jury, and executioner for activities in another nation, which differ little, if at all, for similar acts of our own, which most of us don't see to be morally wrong, or in violation of any international law. Try explaining that, by using logic.

There is no moral nor legal reason why the U.S. of A. should go to war with Syria. Syria has not attacked us, nor is it even threatening to do so (only to defend itself if we attack them). War is wrong, no matter how fought; Syria's government forces appear to be no better, nor worse, than have been other armies (our own specifically included) in fighting other wars.

It seems, to this correspondent, that Mr. Obama (the lawyer) is going after Syria, in the same, illogical, emotional way his attorney general attempted to "punish" the man accused, and exonerated, of criminally killing a young man that "could have been (the president's) son. That's what electing an immature, recent law school graduate to high office did for us. Whatever lawyers may be, they're almost never logical, analytical, rational, moral - nor useful.

Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated column by J.G. Nash. Relevant comment may be sent to him at jgn@jgnash.com.

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