More than 110,000 people are dead as the world watches, waits and wonders as war-weary Americans face yet another possible overseas intervention. However, unlike past Middle Eastern conflicts, this one isn’t about oil, money or false truths about weapons of mass destruction wielding, freedom hating dictators; Syria is about people.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 110,000 Syrians have been killed over the course of the two-and-a-half year civil war. The recent use of sarin gas, confirmed by U.N. inspectors, by Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad on his own people has raised the eyebrows of the international community and blatantly crossed the red line set by President Obama. The question now is not whether the U.S. should be involved, but how we get involved.
The best option may be diplomacy. The recent deal struck between the U.S. and Russia shows promise. Assad’s chemical weapon stockpile will be in international control and destroyed by mid 2014 if all goes as planned. The seizing of the weapons not only removes the atrocious weapons from battle, but also assures that whoever takes over, if and when, the Assad regime falls, will not have such mass killing power in the future. However, the deal does not lay out a course of action for removing Assad from power. Seizing the chemical weapons without military intervention will help even the playing field in the Syrian people’s fight for freedom, but sends a bad message to the Assad regime and others like it – the message being that it’s unacceptable to kill your own people with chemicals, but mass murder by bullets and explosives is fine. For a diplomatic resolution to be truly successful, Assad should be forced to step down and a government controlled by the people must be installed.
If that fails, there’s still the military option. The American people are no strangers to U.S. military intervention in foreign conflicts, and after an eight year war in Iraq and an ongoing war in Afghanistan, many are hesitant to jump into yet another Middle Eastern fight. The skeptical mindset is understandable, but military action in Syria would be on a much smaller scale than the action taken in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The current plan of military action is not a full scale invasion, but rather a series of airstrikes targeting Syrian military infrastructure, much like international action taken in Libya during the ousting of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The lack of “boots on the ground” should, in theory, expedite the process of toppling the Assad regime without the need for long-term military commitment, as well as minimize the risk of losing American lives.
Even with minimal military involvement, there are always risks and consequences that accompany interventions. Both Iran and Russia take interest in Syria and may not stand by idly as the Western powers topple a regime that favors their conduct. If either country were to intervene militarily, the U.S. and its allies would face what could become World War III. I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants that. If the U.S. does end up taking military action, we must send a firm message that mass state-sponsored killing is not acceptable, without stepping on the toes of Syria’s allies.
No matter what, the U.S. has to do something and those who say otherwise forget something: we are the leader of the free world. Right now, we are not leading. We are watching. We are watching a people’s desperate struggle for freedom. Some say it’s not our business dealing in domestic affairs of other countries, but like it or not, we’ve set a precedent of making it our business. If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action. We have the ability, we have the responsibility. It’s time we get involved.
Landon Ochsner is a freshman in pre-journalism and mass communications. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org