The Syrian civil war has been raging since March, 2011 and certainly shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Recent weeks have shocked the world as, according to the U.S. State Department, “undeniable” proof that the Syrian leadership under Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons on its citizens in Damascus. The June 2013 United Nations death toll estimate is at about 100,000 for the entire conflict so far. While civil wars are nothing new to the world, this situation has drawn the eyes of the world because of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, the largest in the world.
Thought the Chemical Weapons Convention outlaws production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, a few nations, like Syria, have refused to sign or ratify the treaty. First of all, where did these weapons come from? The answer is relatively simple, and provides further proof that President George W. Bush was right about the war in Iraq. In a book written by former Iraqi general, Georges Sada wrote a comprehensive account of how the Iraqi Revolutionary Guard used passenger planes to transport these weapons to other countries (including Syria) just months before the 2003 U.S. invasion. If the account is right, then an intellectually honest person will have to give Bush credit for addressing the threat in accordance with the intelligence his administration.
The situation that we all cannot ignore is that Syria has used its chemical weapons on its citizens. Can the world, including the United States, simply ignore this? Certainly no one wants to see Syria go into a full-blown chemical war, as that could easily spread to other countries in the ever so volatile Middle East. Should the U.N attempt to bring a resolution, or should there be one power that attempts to bring around a cease fire (at minimum)? There does not seem to be a simple way to bring an end to this increasingly dangerous conflict.
As of August 31, 2013, President Obama asked that Congress debate over taking military action in Syria. He has continually made the case for intervening, using the recent chemical attack to his advantage. However, the vast majority of the American people are opposed to taking military action in Syria. In a Wall Street Journal poll, less than one-fifth of those polled approved of taking action in Syria; only 27% thought a military strike would improve the current situation. So the question remains: what is President Obama’s agenda with getting involved with Syria?
There are certainly some national security concerns; obviously involving the use of chemical weapons, but also of those who are allied with President Assad. Iran, China, and Russia are three major allies of the regime, and all have economic and/or ideological ties to the country. In an article by Holly Yan on CNN, she claims that Russia supports Syria because it is one of their biggest arms suppliers, and it wants to prevent American influence on the region. Iran obviously has religious and ideological ties to the Syrian regime, and has also been a supplier of arms as well. China’s interest is most likely financial, as Syria was its third largest importer in 2010 according to the European Commission.
All three of these nations (either openly, or behind the scenes) are against the interests of the United States. By entering into Syria, the United States would be indirectly attacking the interests of Russia, Iran and China. Knowing how these three powers tend to react to attacks on their interests or people, any action has to be extremely careful. The risk of involvement could be too great to counter-balance the benefit.
As previously stated, President Obama has asked Congress to debate taking action in Syria. If Congress approves military action, the concerns of the American people may not be much of an issue to President Obama. However, the 2014 midterm election is a concern for Congress in regard to this debate. No Congressman or Senator wants to lose their seat; if the vast majority of Americans polled are against taking any action, the logical conclusion is that Congress will reject any proposal to intervene. On August 30, Britain’s Parliament voted down a proposal to intervene in Syria; a similar outcome in America’s Congress seems very likely to happen.
Of course, I am not a national security expert, but even to this concerned citizen, any action in Syria is something that is too dangerous in the long run. Does America need another war in the Middle East after having 2 in one decade? The debt ceiling is rapidly approaching again, and any action taken will cost billions in the short term, possibly trillions if any long term action is taken. The debate is up to Congress and our military leaders, however the consensus of the American people should account for a large part in this decision.