A Comprehensive Argument for Syrian Intervention
By: Nick Adamo
For years, the people of Syria have been faced with dire circumstances. Their country is embroiled in a devastating civil war, with the death toll passing 100,000 this June. The Syrian government has committed heinous crimes against humanity, using tactics such as systematic rape, torture, targeting innocent civilians and chemical weapons; often times the victims include women and children.
With the Syrian government breaking international laws and committing biological attacks on its people, President Obama is preparing to launch targeted operations against them. Our nation is currently in a heated debate on the proper course of action regarding Syria.
Before I launch my arguments, I would like to mention that I consider myself a socially liberal Progressive. I strongly believe that we should do more to combat climate change, provide the LGBT community with full equality, and we should legalize marijuana. I also believe in a more progressive tax code and a sizeable increase in investments in education and infrastructure. I am sharing this because I would like people to know where I am on the political spectrum before reading my thoughts on Syria. I also want to avoid the connotation that I am a Right Wing war hawk, who just likes the idea of bombing other countries.
Here are five reasons why we must carry out President Obama’s plan and intervene in Syria:
1) The Children
In the latest chemical attack launched in Syria, over 400 children were killed. Their young lives were extinguished before they even had a chance to live and the way in which they died was downright horrific. They were killed by Sarin gas, a deadly chemical weapon that causes death described as agonizing.
First the victims’ muscles are paralyzed, so they can no longer breathe. Then, there comes intense vomiting followed by seizures until their heart eventually stops beating. What I just described to you happened to over 400 children just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately they are not alone; thousands of children have been killed in Syria since this crisis began. Some of them were shot execution style as their parents were forced to watch. Others were burned or buried alive.
Children are also among the thousands of people currently being tortured in Syria. According to released detainees and defectors, the methods of torture include prolonged beatings, holding the detainees in painful positions for long periods of time, electrocution, sexual assault and humiliation, the pulling of fingernails and mock execution. The world should never sit passively by while such wide-scale atrocities are being committed. I believe years from now we will look back at this period of inaction with regret and shame.
2) We will not get tangled in a long-term conflict
The main reason people are wary of Syrian Intervention is they are worried about a potential repeat of the conflict in Iraq. It is important, however, to consider that Syria and Iraq provided very different situations. There was no opposing force in Iraq, so we had to do all of the heavy lifting. In Syria, there are already opposition forces on the ground. All we need to do is level the playing field by limiting Syrian air power and using strategically located strikes to influence current ground fighting. With the use of cruise missiles, we can keep our armed forces out of harm’s reach, and destroy targets with pin point accuracy from over 600 miles away.
We also will not have to build up a new government after deposing Assad. The Syrian National Coalition which is comprised of leading opposition groups has already been declared the legitimate government of Syria by other countries in the region. The coalition also already holds Syria’s seat with the Arab League and is inclusive of minorities and women.
Many people are worried that retaliation from other countries such as Iran will lead to Regional War. It should be noted that the countries who have expressed their intention to respond or retaliate against an American intervention have a history of using strong rhetoric without following through on their promises. There is no reason to believe that this time would be any different, especially when you consider how much stronger our military is in comparison to theirs. These countries may want to try and retaliate but they do not have a death wish. They know the consequences of their retaliation would be severe.
3) Our credibility and our national security are at risk
The president made himself clear on this issue, he drew a red line. Inaction in response to defiance will come off as looking incredibly weak. Our commander-in-chief will appear dishonest, and any threat we make going forward will be viewed as empty. We will be sending the wrong message to our enemies: that they can defy the United States of America and go unpunished. Our ability to exert our influence throughout the world will be damaged and perhaps lost forever.
To quote the timeless historian Tacitus “Great Empires are not maintained through Timidity.” America is a modern-day empire and the world’s lone superpower. We must keep this in mind when debating our role in foreign policy.
I fear that if we let these crimes against humanity go unpunished, we will see an even more emboldened Bashar Al-Assad. He will feel that he can launch chemical attacks with impunity, and the results for the innocent people in Syria will be nothing short of catastrophic.
We also cannot afford to have other leaders in the region see Assad get away with launching these biological attacks and feel that they too could use them in the future. If there is no punishment for committing this crime, then what would stop others if they ever feel the need to launch chemical attacks of their own?
4) Political defeat for Iran, Russia and China
We must capitalize on the opportunity to deal a political blow to Iran, Russia and to a somewhat lesser degree, China.
Syria is Iran’s strongest ally, and that is why Iran has been spending vast resources and efforts to keep Assad in power. To put it laymen’s terms, losing your best friend is always painful but it truly hurts when you have few other friends. Iran is desperate to hold on to Assad as an ally, and deposing of him would be a huge victory on the Iranian front.
Although Russia does not have as much at stake as Iran, they still have a lot to lose if the Assad regime is overthrown. In addition to enjoying a long history of friendly relations with Syria, consider the fact that Russia’s only Mediterranean Naval Base is located in the Syrian port of Tartus. Russia had actually been planning to expand and invest in this naval base in order to exert more influence in the Mediterranean Region. Removing Assad could be a serious blow to Russian Naval Power and damage the ability of one of our main political enemies to exert its influence in a critical part of the world.
Let’s not forget the economic side of things as well. Russia has significant trade relations with Syria. Its exports to Syria were over one billion dollars in 2010, and its investments in Syria were valued at around 20 billion dollars in 2009. Besides lucrative arms contracts, Russian firms have a strong presence in Syria's infrastructure, energy and tourism industries.
China also has an economical stake in this as Syria’s biggest importer. In 2010, Chinese exports into Syria totaled 2.2 billion dollars. It also has a strong stake in Syrian oil operations with the partnership of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation and the Syrian National Oil Company.
5) President Obama’s proven track record on foreign policy
President Obama has displayed a very strong track record on foreign policy during his time in office. He got our troops out of Iraq. He participated in operations in Libya that ousted Muammar Gaddafi without the use of ground forces. He successfully ordered the risky operation into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden. His policies also eliminated more high ranking terrorists in his first four years in office than George W. Bush did in both of his terms combined. I absolutely trust our commander-in-chief to make the appropriate decisions, to ensure that this operation stays on point and ends successfully.
In my opinion, we cannot call ourselves Progressive and be against calculated strikes in Syria. When young children are being massacred by a genocidal government, intervention is clearly the Progressive option. That’s why I am surprised that so many people I know who consider themselves Liberal or Progressive are against this intervention. I feel they are viewing the option of war too broadly. They see the word “war,” and they are instantly turned off, but you cannot always be against war. Instead, we must dig deeper and treat each potential war as its own unique situation. No one likes war, it’s a terrible concept, and I wish the human race could abolish it as a practice. But let’s try and maintain a realistic approach, because sometimes war is necessary and this is one of those times.
Points of Reference/ Further Reading