There are a lot of thoughtful arguments against launching a missile attack to retaliate for Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons on thousands of its own citizens. As The Week's Jon Terbush notes, retaliatory strikes may be ineffective. Tomahawk cruise missiles are also very expensive, and the U.S. and its allies have a questionable legal right to fire them into Syria. Also, could the U.S. really just lob some bombs into a bloody civil war and then walk away?
The widely predicted attack even has United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pleading for more time, and quoting John Lennon. "Give peace a chance," Moon said Wednesday. "Give diplomacy a chance. Stop acting and start talking," and give U.N. chemical weapons inspectors a chance to gather evidence and establish the facts, Moon said.
Americans seem largely receptive to this skepticism: In a new Ipsos/Reuters poll, for example, only 9 percent of Americans support more military intervention in Syria, a number that rises to a still-low 25 percent if President Bashar al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons.
Among the interesting coalition of commentators arguing against a strike on Syria, though, there are some voices that seem a little over the top. Here are four warnings that perhaps stretch the bounds of rational debate:
1. Sean Hannity: This could spark World War III
On his radio show Tuesday, Fox News star Sean Hannity warned that attacking Syria could trigger a third world war. Hannity spent most of the segment "twisting himself into various rhetorical gymnastics in order to simultaneously criticize Obama for being too weak, and for pursuing a military strike," say McKay Coppins and Kate Nocera at BuzzFeed, but he ultimately, "tentatively sided with the libertarians" in the GOP who don't want the U.S. to "police" the world.
"If you read about World War I and you read about World War II," Hannity said, America has an instinct to intervene to fight evil. And with the "rise of the radical Islamists" and the U.S. threatening to attack Syria, "you're seeing the formation now of what could very potentially be the next world war." Israel would come under attack, and "good countries are going to have to come to its defense," he added.
You can almost see this precipitating it, if in fact the U.S. strikes and Iran gets involved and Syria gets involved, and you're going to see countries very quickly go down the middle and start taking sides. It has the potential to powder keg. [Hannity, via Mediaite]
2. Joseph Cannon: Neo-cons are luring Obama into a bloody trap
GOP foreign policy hawks have apparently "suckered" Obama into attacking Syria to precipitate a war with Iran, said Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire. Iran and Syria have a mutual-defense pact, and Iran has sophisticated enough weapons to hit U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, but "for the people trying to engineer this horror, drawing Iran into war is not a bug. It's a feature."
This shouldn't surprise anyone, Cannon added. "The neocons have made one thing clear over the past half-dozen years: They want to gin up a war with Iran, and they want all of the resultant mass death to happen on a Democrat's watch."
3. Glenn Beck: "We don't survive" an attack on Syria
On his BlazeTV show, Glenn Beck picked up on Hannity's World War III idea and ran with it. He also appeared to agree with Russia, whose foreign ministry warned Tuesday that unless the U.S. proves that Assad used chemical weapons, attempts "to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa."
This is ominous, Beck said. "Today Russia and now China have added their name to the list of, 'Don't do anything in Syria.' So now we have Russia, Iran, and China telling us, 'Mind your own business.'" If America is "willing to get into World War III and go up against Russia, Iran and China," we're out of our minds, Beck said. "We don't survive that."
("Although Russia sent a small naval task force to the eastern Mediterranean this year and maintains a refitting station in the Syrian port of Tartus," says Will Englund at The Washington Post, "Moscow would appear to have little recourse — beyond verbal denunciations — in the event of a Western attack.")
Beck said he's not an anti-war protester, but rather wants Tea Party conservatives and "true non-progressive liberals" to find common cause and oppose Syrian intervention. "Don't screw with this," he warned. "This is World War III in the making." Watch:
4. Dennis Kucinich: America is about to become "al Qaeda's air force"
Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) agrees with, among others, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), that Obama has to get authorization from Congress to take any military action in Syria. "This is a very, very serious matter that has broad implications internationally," Kucinich told The Hill. "And to try to minimize it by saying we're just going to have a 'targeted strike' — that's an act of war. It's not anything to be trifled with."
Obama is "rushing" the U.S. into what could become "World War III" before all the facts are known, Kucinich said. Attacking Syria would also benefit the radical Islamists trying to wrest power away from Assad, he adds. "So what, we're about to become al Qaeda's air force now?"