By Garrison S. Murphy ’15
It would be difficult to find someone who hasn’t heard about the escalating conflict in Syria.
Syria’s current president Bashar al-Assad’s regime allegedly used chemical warheads, against Syrian citizens Aug. 21 in an effort to eliminate rebel forces
The result was horrifying — at least 1,300 individuals were reported dead and 3,600 were treated for gas related injuries, according to George Sabra, an opposition force leader in Syria.
Although rebel forces, the intended target, were affected horribly, most of the casualties were civilians. Many were children.
Backtrack to 1929. Following the atrocities of WWI, the Geneva protocol became effective and gas/chemical warfare was officially outlawed within the constraints of national and international war.
Since then, the United States has encountered the illegal use of chemical warheads on numerous occasions.
Mussolini used it against the Ethiopians from 1935-36, the Japanese used it against the Chinese during WWI and Hitler used it against Jewish Civilians in concentration camps.
In every one of these instances the United States has been involved — not directly involved despite a breach in the Geneva Convention, but nevertheless we did something about it.
Estimates of the death toll are now more than 115,000, and rising every day, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human rights.
As the conflict drags on, intervention appears necessary to many.
“I believe that the United States should take some indirect action, because (chemical warfare) is an intolerable act,” said James Hunt ’15.
Still, many feel that Syria will surely become another Iraq, or worse — a world war scenario.
“It’s dangerous that the U.S. is getting involved over there, ” said Gus Laurin ’15. “There is a lot at stake — it seems similar to what happened in the early 2000s with Iraq, but this time there are a lot more countries involved.”
The solution lies very much in the grey area. If one thing is certain, boots on the ground will do nothing but create tension between international powers and create even more civil unrest.
“I believe that the issue is not so pressing that it would affect American civilians, and it would be a dangerous risk to American soldiers,” Hunt said.
On the other hand, if we do nothing about the situation, it could further permit the atrocities committed in Syria.
Recently the United Nations accepted a treaty that requires the Syrians to hand over their chemical weapons.
For now, indirect action such as this seems to be the most humane and effective solution for the United States.
Another huge factor is the presence of Russia.
In recent months, foreign relations between Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, and President Barack Obama have been touchy to say the least.
“It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance,” said Putin regarding U.N. and U.S. intervention.
Even with all of these looming threats, it seems that President Obama is still set on direct involvement.
During a formal presidential speech on Sept. 10, Obama addressed not only the country, but the world with a very concise, non-disputable message — that of war.
“…After careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike,” President Obama said.
Although Obama made his intentions clear during his address, it is evident that outside pressure may have curbed his initial plans.
Obama opted to allow 11th hour diplomatic negotiations between the State Department and Russia to play out before pursuing any military intervention.
Some Americans feel that our motives for entering Syria are far more complicated than what our government want us to know.
“We have had a long standing dislike of Syria, going back to the fifties,” said Mr. Lane McShane ’82. “That is very geo-politically important land to have some kind of control over.”
Mr. McShane also said that past conflicts between Israel, our ally, and Syria could be the cause of deeply seeded animosity between international government officials.
“The Syrians supported the Egyptians in the failed October war of 1973 where Egypt and Syria teamed up to attack Israel …you can’t deny that the Israeli lobby, probably in Washington and in an international military sense, would love to see us take out a perceived enemy,” Mr. McShane said.
Our somewhat controversial interests in Syria raise question as to why we haven’t involved ourselves in situations like that of Uganda, which is arguably a more gruesome conflict.
Why is it that we have now decidedly ignored some conflicts, but become so embedded in others that we are willing to lay U.S. lives on the line?
The bottom line is that as a country we are just beginning to recover from a decade long conflict that has cost thousands of U.S. lives and billions in tax-payer money and we are not ready for another war.
91 percent of Americans are opposed to military intervention in Syria, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Let’s hope that our governing counterparts listen to the majority.