The question of the day is, “Should the United States go to war in Syria?” Americans seem to have two common answers: no, because our country is in debt, and another war would add to the burden; or yes, because our country should put an end to the crimes against humanity being perpetrated against civilians there. Both answers are noble in their own ways, but neither answers the fundamental question. The truest answer is that United States shouldn’t go to war in Syria because it simply isn’t necessary, and unnecessary war is un-American.
There is no question that if the United States is attacked, a military response is appropriate. The use of force may also be justified if our national security is under threat. But if there is not even a threat of harm, then war is unjustifiable by any argument, no matter how righteous. Even if a majority of Americans are in favor of an unprovoked war, that does not give it the right to drag the minority along on a march to kill people who have never raised a hand against us.
If the moral argument does not sway you, consider the practical one. The Syrian government has promised retaliatory attacks against the United States if it enters the war. That is clearly not a threat of conventional warfare. The Syrian military has no chance of going toe-to-toe with the United States’ armed forces. The Syrians are implicitly threatening acts of terrorism. Why would we openly invite a foreign state to begin sponsoring terrorism against us? Ultimately, joining the war might enhance our foreign esteem on one side, but only while making bitter, inveterate enemies on the other – enemies with significantly deeper resources than al Qaeda.
Yes, the United States has participated in unnecessary wars before, generally for humanitarian reasons. Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kuwait are recent examples. The Iraq War was not waged for humanitarian reasons, but it was equally unprovoked. Some might suggest these conflicts prove that the United States is justified in joining wars unnecessarily. In fact, they are simply examples of our government’s abuse of its war making powers. None of those wars were justifiable, because they all dragged an objecting minority along to kill people that were not threatening our nation.
Some Americans might ask how Syria’s civilians might find relief, if not through United States military intervention. These Americans are free to help the Syrian rebels by donating money, or sending supplies. They can encourage governments and businesses to stop trading with the Syrian government, and offer special terms to rebel groups. If they truly care about the outcome of Syria’s civil war they can even go to Syria and fight for the rebels, as Americans went to support the anti-fascists in the Spanish civil war. They cannot, however, rightfully commandeer the government to prosecute an unnecessary war. While there is a chance such a war would help some people on the other side of the planet, it would certainly harm some people here at home. It would make them some dangerous enemies they didn’t ask for and don’t deserve.