If Obama Were a Data Geek, This is How He'd Decide on the Syria War
In the debate surrounding an American attack on Syria there has been lots of emotional rhetoric, educated guessing, and talk of retaining and/or restoring American "credibility" in the region — as if it still exists after decades of blind support for the Saudi and Israeli regimes, a decade of destructive war in Iraq, and recent confirmation of American support for Iraqi chemical warfare against its own citizens and Iran.
The Syrian Civil War is a tech-heavy conflict, unverifiable videos of rebel and government forces committing atrocities circulate widely on the net and the pro-government Syrian Electronic Army has been "hactivisting" media outlets it sees as openly pro-rebel. For such a data heavy conflict there is a stunning lack of data and hard facts or a digital strategy on the part of the "pro-bombing" side of the debate.
The failure of a digital strategy is easy to explain — it has no audience. No one is creating pro-attack memes, no one seems interested in sharing articles that call for bombing yet another Mideastern country that is no threat to America. Here's a piece of data that President Obama the coalition of pro-bombing centrists cannot seem to digest, a whopping 9% of Americans want to attack Syria (Congress and Communism are more popular). You simply cannot launch a viral internet campaign advocating violence that virtually no one wants to commit.
The lack of data employed by the pro-bombing side of the debates is evidence that they have no hard data to back up their case. Rarely do those with firm evidence on their side resort to purely emotional appeals and rely on "secret evidence." More data that sits uneasy with advocates of attacking Syria is the two major post-WWII American wars, Vietnam and Iraq, were based on "faulty intelligence" at best, and outright lies at worst. Why should we believe this secret Syrian evidence after the Gulf of Tonkin and the missing WMDs? Especially when the administration prefers intel from the Syrian rebels instead of U.S. intelligence.
In fact, the only side threatening to use chemical weapons in Syria is the rebel side. The men threatening to use these weapons are not Al Qaeda, they are from the "moderate" Free Syrian Army, the rebel group supported by the West against Assad's government. This May, Rebels were caught with chemical weapons in Turkey, and are suspected in at least one previous chemical attack. Why are we supporting a rebel movement willing to engage in such tactics to counter a government that allegedly used them?
Another piece of data that leaves advocates of attacking Syria uncomfortable is the attack would do nothing to help the long suffering Syrian people. We're being told this attack will be limited and short. A short campaign would be comparable to Clinton's cruise missile strikes on Al Qaeda and Sudan in 1998, both of which emerged relatively unscathed. It could also be compared to the pre-invasion Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq, which did not kill or intimidate Saddam at the last moment. The problem is neither of these campaigns achieved their goals, Al Qaeda grew stronger and launched 9/11, Sudan still faces a range of challenges, and neither Saddam nor the Iraqi people were cowed into submission.
The answer to any data geek is clear: Do not bomb Syria. Attacking Syria will do nothing to aid the humanitarian situation, the American people are firmly against bombing Syria, the evidence for the war remains unproven, and the rebels may also be using chemical weapons. All this can be said without even getting into the FSA's alliance with Al Qaeda and the increasing domestic fallout in America. It's time for President Obama to turn into a data geek, it might just save us from another disastrous war.