News about the civil war in Syria continues with almost daily tales of horrifying mass casualties. Despite the carnage the American policy has seemed, on the surface at least, to be to wait and see– but not get involved. There is a building sense that the United States has an almost moral imperative to act to stop the bloodshed. Politics writers Tess VandenDolder and Anthony Sodd debate the pros and cons of American involvement in the conflict.
Tess: It’s mind boggling to me how quickly America forget’s the mantra “never again”. We seem to spew it after every global atrocity and then we let it slip quickly into the annals of history. There is no doubt in my mind that Syria will be remembered as the first genocide of the 21st century, and the world is just too uncomfortable to acknowledge it. This is America’s chance to show that we are not a declining empire as scholars like to think, but still the most idealistic and powerful nation on earth.
Anthony: I don’t think there is any doubt that atrocities are occurring every day in Syria, but the question is how do you put pressure on the Syrian regime without it blowing up in your face. As much as I’m sure a lot of people would love to send over the marines to make it all better, it’s just not that simple. We would quickly be embroiled in a geopolitical hellfire. The Iranians would make sure that Hezbollah rains down chaos in Lebanon and Israel, and you could expect a large increase in soft target terrorism aimed at Americans and Israelis abroad. God forbid Assad uses his chemical weapons. That would force the Israelis to respond, which would force the Egyptians to respond, which would spiral out of control. We could be talking about starting World War 3.
Tess: It’s clear that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. The Genocide Convention and the Human Rights Convention both dictate that we have a responsibility to intervene. What’s the point of pretending we are in an enlightened interconnected world if we still allow these atrocities to happen. The faulty logic that World War 3 is going to break out if we put boots on the ground has been used as an excuse for every decision to sit by and do nothing. Other than a couple of rogue states (ie. Iran and Hezbollah) the world is against the Assad regime, and any action we would take, if managed responsibly, would have global support.
Anthony: I’m not going to argue that Assad shouldn’t be put into a meat grinder, but I’m not sure that pragmatically, at least, the United States should throw fuel on a very combustible situation. A large reason we haven’t been able to do more against Assad is that the Russians, who are on the U.N. Security Council, are loath to allow a military intervention in Syria. Ignoring that would be putting us on the wrong side of International Law– again. Taking a horrible and brutal civil war and helping ensure that it spreads to Lebanon, Israel and Jordan is not a course that will help anyone.
Tess: Forget the Russians, should the U.S. ask the U.N. for peacekeepers I think that they would have a strong enough contingency of support in Europe and Africa to make it happen. That would at least be a first step in the right direction. There is a moral imperative to ensure that we stop the killing of innocents as quickly as possible, before the situation escalates and even grows to encompass neighboring countries. It’s never easy to take the first step toward action, but if America wants to live up to her reputation she should be brave enough to do that.
Anthony: There might be a moral imperative to act, and you can talk to Putin about it all day long. The reality of the situation is that the Russians are never going to abandon their ally and will veto any Security Council resolution that would threaten Assad. To be honest, the only real option we have is to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter against Assad for the various border skirmishes his troops have had with the Turks. But if your moral imperative is to stop the killing, adding an American military presence would probably have the opposite effect.
So there you have it, it’s complex and dirty debate. We’d love to read your opinions below.