The Edmond Sun

July 26, 2013

Oklahomans oppose war in Syria

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft and Nathaniel Batchelder
Special to The Sun

OKLA. CITY — At an Oklahoma State Capitol rally, four speakers on the left and four speakers on the right addressed 200 participants gathered together in near 100-degree heat. The message was, “President Obama must hear from all of us that Syria is a powder-keg that the United States must not become militarily embroiled in. Syria is not our war.”

We must learn from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Military action can become a swamp from which it is nearly impossible to disengage. We have invested trillions of dollars, thousands of lives of our troops and tens of thousands wounded still seeking medical or psychological care. Congress and “We the People” must prevent avoidable military excursions.

The Assad government is ruthless and has killed thousands of civilians, but the Obama Administration said poison gas used by government forces would be the “red line” for action. A United Nations finding published by Reuters showed that poison gas was used by rebel forces, not government forces, so that line has yet to be crossed.

Syria’s civil war is complex. It’s a sectarian war, meaning that religion is an issue, in a volatile region of the world. The conflict could spread beyond Syria’s borders to become a regional war. U.S. involvement pulls us into a proxy war with Russia and Iran, who are supporting the Assad government.

President Barack Obama has thus far avoided getting the U.S. into the Syrian mess, but he is under pressure from the hawks who push for military action and label presidents who avoid it as weak.

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has come out in a Time Magazine editorial stating that intervention will make the Syrian conflict worse. Joshua Landis, an acknowledged expert on Syria and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, has published articles stating that intervention by the U.S. risks war on a par with Iraq and Afghanistan.

National Peace Groups agree. Their petitions have collected thousands of signatures. Such petitions say, “Mr. President, We urge you to abstain from any U.S. or allied military attack on Syria. War is not the answer.”

Domestic needs here in the U.S. cry for financial support, but our treasury is depleted by war. Our military and “We the People” are exhausted by war. It is time to invest our efforts at home in an economy that supports justice and lifts all boats.

Let us support President Obama in refraining from military intervention, but instead using diplomatic influence to bring about negotiations, with all parties at the table, to end the violence in Syria.

Legislation before Congress would prohibit U.S. military intervention in Syria without a vote of Congress. The House and Senate bills are H.R. 2494 and S. 1201.

The world desperately needs voices opposing military conflict and supporting patient diplomacy and negotiations. Syria must not become our next war.

STATE REP. PAUL WESSELHOFT is a Republican from Moore. Nathaniel Batchelder is the director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City.