The Pros and Cons of US Intervention in Syria

Caroline Kranefuss

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“UN Report Confirms Chemical Weapons Use in Syria.”, “Obama Demands Congress Clarify U.S. Military Intervention in Syria and Beyond”, and “France Emerges as a Key U.S. Ally Against Syria”.

Headlines like these are showing up in every major newspaper and for good reason. For decades, the Assad regime has ruled Syria with an iron fist, constantly violating human rights and infringing on common freedoms. For decades, the world has not gotten involved, until now.

It was recently proven that chemical weapons were used against civilians in Syria, and all evidence points to the Assad regime as the culprit. President Obama has repeatedly threatened that if Assad crossed this “red line”, the US would take military action against Syria. Now, he is attempting to convince Congress to approve his appeal for war. Many Congressmen and women are opposed to this war and wonder why Obama would involve the US in this conflict. However, there are many compelling reasons to go to war, or to at least get militarily involved in some way.

Let’s start with the pros – why Obama would consider involving the US in Syrian tumult. First and foremost, the only way to end the Assad regime is to impress global intervention against him. This strategy’s success is proven with many facts and statistics, as well as looking at the history of the conflict. Someone must make the first move – why should it not be the US? Indeed, the US has French support in their aims to militarily oppose Syria. The other main reason is based on Obama’s “red line” threat. It has been surmised that Assad crossed the “red line” by using chemical weapons on civilians. Now, in order to hold to his threat to take action, Obama must act. To not do so would be a sign of American weakness. This is dangerous for Iran, another Middle Eastern country in conflict with the US, to see because it would give the country’s leaders a reason to not take America’s threats against nuclear weapons seriously. It would also send the message that future threats about chemical weapons for any country would not need to be taken seriously. This could lead to a dangerous decline in the respect (or fear) Middle Eastern countries hold for America, potentially complicating politics in the region.  Additionally, Obama is considering an intervention that prohibits “boots on the ground” – that is, no American soldiers will set foot on Syrian soil. Theoretically, this would decrease American casualties, making the operation less of a threat to US domestic life.

Despite these strong reasons for the intervention, there are many reasons holding Americans back from wholeheartedly supporting Obama’s proposal. Many Americans feel that the US should not get tied up in the messy situation of Middle-Eastern politics – going to Syria could involve the US in other conflicts. Additionally, public morale about Middle Eastern affairs is low after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if the US was to defeat Assad, there is no method of implementing a new ruler and political system. People point to America’s failure in Iraq to create a democracy as an example of this. Additionally, the United States does not have British support, as the British parliament recently announced that the nation would not get militarily involved in the conflict. Assad has many allies in the Middle East, and opposing him could create many powerful enemies against the US and possibly even put the US at a disadvantage in the oil trade. Furthermore, Russia supports Assad and strongly opposes any military interventions against the Assad regime. Russia also supports Syria in the UN and has, along with China, blocked previous attempts to incriminate Assad.

This is a complicated issue with many sides, each of them valid to some degree. In fact, that is why making a decision has been so complicated so far. Either decision has the potential to involve the United States in a global conflict.

NY Times Article:  Worth, Robert F. “In Syria Crisis, U.S. Keeps Eye on Iran Policy; Still Seeks Progress on Nuclear Diplomacy.” New York Times 03 11 2013, Late Edition A1 and A6. Print.

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