Syria: should the United States intervene?

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The crisis of Syria’s civil war recently reached a boiling point with the revelation that chemical weapons were used in the conflict. With the potential for American entry into the war, two students give opposing arguments on whether or not the United States should get involved.

 

A man sits in the ruins of a neighborhood bombed by government forces in Aleppo, Syria.  –Photo courtesy of Reuters
A man sits in the ruins of a neighborhood bombed by government forces in Aleppo, Syria.
–Photo courtesy of Reuters

Hunter Johnson makes the case for U.S. involvement

 

It’s not often I find myself agreeing with President Obama; in fact, it almost never happens. Today, however, I proudly stand behind him and a shocking minority of American citizens on one crucial issue: Syria. I firmly believe the United States must punish the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) against its own civilians.

Opponents of U.S. involvement in Syria have given numerous reasons to remain out of the conflict (see Mr. Davis’ counterargument featured in this issue). While these reasons are not wholly unfounded, I believe that they do not take into account the greater repercussions of refraining from military action.

The long-term results of American disengagement present a real threat to our country’s global influence and, as a result, national security. Obama urged the U.S. to respond to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government with his now famous “red line” comments. For better or for worse, when the president speaks on international issues to an international audience, he speaks for the government of the United States.

Now that Assad has crossed Obama’s red line, America’s credibility as a global power is at stake. When the president takes a firm stance on an issue, rogue nations should fear challenging him. What kind of image would we, as a country, send, if our leader warns a dictator not to use WMDs, the dictator uses them anyway and we just ignore it? Why, then, should countries like Iran and North Korea fear to advance their WMD programs, when another country can get away with actually using these weapons?

At that point, there’s a substantial threat not only to American interests abroad, but also to American citizens.

Geopolitical matters aside, there’s a more important reason we should act, and it’s a reason that I’m amazed has to be made clear to American citizens: the chemical attack made by Assad’s forces killed 1,429 people, 426 of whom were children, according to U.S. intelligence. That’s in addition to over 100,000 lives taken in the conflict by various means, including government attacks on neighborhoods and hospitals.

We are the United States of America – we hold ourselves to high standards. As an American, are you really okay with not only watching a tyrant massacre his own people to maintain power, but also letting him get away with it?

America can’t get involved in all wars in which there is genocide and mass slaughter; there is only so much she can do. Here, however, we are presented with a crisis to which the United States is more than well-equipped to respond.

Yet, despite our country’s capabilities, many Americans feel no urge at all to act in the face of this horrendous violence. Sarah Palin wrote over a week ago on Facebook, “Let Allah sort it out.” While I do have a soft spot for Mrs. Palin, a fact my friends know all too well, this time she is painfully, disgustingly wrong.

There are risks associated with our involvement; there is no denying it. Some rebels are affiliated with al-Qaeda, a terrible truth that will have to be dealt with one day. But we need to see the bigger picture; not all of the rebels being killed are jihadists, nor were all 426 children that were gassed terrorists.

And yes, we are still mired in the aftershocks of the Great Recession. And yes, the idea of starting another Afghanistan or Iraq-style war makes no one excited. These excuses are no reason, however, to condone, by inaction, the slaughter of innocents.

We cannot stay short-sighted and ignore this war simply because it’s not a pleasant situation. When history looks back on the conflict in Syria, people will either see the U.S. as a nation that rose to the challenge and defended the basic rights to life and peace for all humans, or they will see a once-mighty power that permitted chemical massacre simply because she was too lazy to act.

 

Adam Davis argues against U.S. intervention

 

Bashar al-Assad’s merciless slaughter of his own people is consuming America’s attention. Haunting videos of twitching, suffocating victims are almost impossible to watch. What may be harder to stomach is the cold reality that our nation has done nothing in response.

But what if I told you we only have France to support any action against Assad? What if more civilians died from the very missiles sent to free them? What if an even more radical group took hold of Syria, and/or a strike instigated World War III?

If the president were to address the American people from the Oval Office tonight and say we won’t get involved, it would be the right thing to do. Responding to violence with more violence does not improve the situation. Doing nothing is a better option because we are practically alone in this fight, more innocent blood would be spilled, the country’s new leadership would likely be worse and worsening tensions with Russia and Iran is a serious threat to our national security.

Unfortunately, ineffective leadership has isolated us. President Obama’s abandonment of a “red line” standard has also emboldened rivals. British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to convince the House of Commons to support us, and, as a consequence, has paid dearly at the polls. Despite most of NATO’s funding coming from the U.S., it and the U.N. will not support intervention.

The mere chance of our nation risking her name in this fight is unwise. One single picture, video clip, or shred of evidence that we accidently killed an innocent Syrian civilian or rebel soldier, and the people turn on us the same way Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis have turned on us. It may sound callous to talk in such plain terms, but it is true. This fight absolutely must remain in the hands of the Free Syria Rebel Army.

If history has any bearing, U.S. intervention rarely improves these situations. Iraq and Afghanistan became full-scale wars, and Libya is now being run by none other than the Muslim Brotherhood. Wait. Isn’t that the anti-American, anti-Semitic, Sharia-law-supporting (and thus anti-woman) organization that was running Egypt, you ask? Correct. Further, the even more radical Jihadist organizations al-Qaeda and Hezbollah retain a presence amongst the rebel fighters. Does hunting al-Qaeda in Syria for the next ten years sound very appealing to you? Me neither.

As if this complicated dilemma needed any more drama, international tensions are spiraling out of control. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a “liar” and announced Russia “has plans” if the U.S. were to strike Syria. While this may stem from annoyance at President Obama describing the eccentric Russian leader’s body language to be “like a bored kid in the back of a classroom,” such threats are to be taken with gravitas.

Russia has ties to Syria, sells them weapons and has a stake in keeping allies in the Middle East. Expecting a mobilized military response to a U.S. strike from the Russian Federation would really only be taking it at its word (or more accurately, its inferences). Throw Israel into the mix and the recipe for World War III may have been discovered.

Politically, there are mistakes galore here. President Obama should have been smarter dealing with Russia, and he never should have drawn a line with Syria he was not willing to immediately enforce.

From these points, we can conclude two things. President Obama is still “the great communicator” but not, perhaps, “the great political mind of the 21st century.” And secondly, two wrongs won’t make a right in Syria; fighting violence with violence will not improve conditions on the ground over there. Our nation remains the final refuge to victims of tyranny the world over. Let us then focus our attention on maintaining that privilege, which was, and always will be, hard won.

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