One of the first things one learns at West Point is that there are Rules to War. When these rules are broken, there are consequences. Every serviceperson’s ID card states that they will follow these rules. One of these rules is “No torture.” Another rule is “No first use of Weapons of Mass Destruction.” These Rules are not just American, they are followed worldwide.
President Assad of Syria has broken a “Rule of War” with his use of chemical weapons against his own people. The world MUST respond. The real question is how to respond. Do we increase economic sanctions or block arms shipments? Do we increase aide to rebels or take military action? How big should any military action be? All legitimate questions, but the common theme is action.
As is often the case in the Middle East, military action is best understood. The corollary is that anything but military action is often misunderstood. I believe the time has come to take limited military action to send the appropriate message. That message is, “What you did was wrong, you will now be punished, and if you do it again, the cost will be higher.” “We, the world community, can not and will not tolerate the use of these weapons.”
I do not take this decision lightly. As a combat veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq, I have seen the horror of war. I abhor war and recognize it must be the absolute last option. Additionally, my son is a senior at West Point and will soon be an Army officer. I have family at risk - unlike most of the leadership in America.
America should not be “the world’s policeman.” We can’t afford it anymore. However, we are still the world’s only economic and military superpower (although China is closing the gap….). Leadership is not always glamorous or popular, but we must lead. The World looks at us to lead. And finally, looking at history, we all know the human consequences when the powerful fail to stand up to evil. I respectfully ask each of you to rally around our President.
Doug is a retired Army Special Forces Colonel. He spent years in combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Heckman ran for the US Congress in 2008 and 2010. He is married with three children and lives in Peachtree Corners.