“Leaning no” on Syria

I had been somewhat on the fence about a potential (likely?) U.S. military intervention in Syria, partly because I hadn’t been following it that closely. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been doing a bit of catch-up reading, and this post at Lawyers, Guns & Money helpfully summarizes my basic unease with what the Obama administration is proposing:

It’s not clear how this kind of attack strengthens the norm against using chemical weapons in any substantive way, and given that the response involves killing innocent people the burden of proof is on proponents to explain why this is something other than empty symbolism.

While I agree about the value of upholding the norm against the use of chemical weapons, the risks and potential downsides seem too serious and numerous to justify an attack. “When in doubt, don’t go to war” seems like a sensible principle, especially when the putative benefits are so speculative.

Here’s some other reading that I’ve found helpful:

Chris Hayes, “Here is where I stand

Robert Howse and Ruti Teitel, “Why Attack Syria?

Zack Beauchamp, “How Obama’s Nobel Prize Explains His Syria Policy

John Judis, “Obama’s Syria Gamble in Congress Is Even Riskier Than You Think” and “Obama’s True Intentions in Syria Become Clear

Donna Hathaway and Scott Shapiro, “On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t Optional

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