No good options in Syria
Information current as of September 15, 2013
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 20:12
In 2012 I walked through the Washington D.C. Holocaust museum exhibits with one question on my mind: how is it possible that America could have been so reluctant to join in the fight against such a tyrant? In considering U.S. military intervention in Syria, this thought echoes through my mind. I believe for many other Americans who grew up learning of our past government’s reluctant effort to aid the Jews in WWII, the question of “are we on the right side of history?” is a haunting one.
According to the BBC, after chemical attacks reportedly killed 1,400 people near Damascus, President Obama said that a “limited” strike would be needed to discourage the Assad regime from further violent suppression. Some skeptics don’t believe there is enough evidence to prove Assad used chemical weapons. Either way, my question is, how will more bombs help quell violence against the Syrian people? Furthermore, do the Syrian people want the allegedly extremist rebels to replace the Assad regime?
Eliza Griswold wrote about this Pashtun folk poem in the New York Times, “Here they [America] fight the Taliban/Behind the mountains, they train them.” As soon as I heard President Obama declare his plan to engage in “limited” strikes over Syria, this landai was all I could think of. The poem’s sharp critique of failed American military efforts in Afghanistan are seemingly prescient as Congress will vote whether to bomb Syria in favor of the rebels, many of whom are openly allied with Al Qaeda.
Are the people we would be aiding really representative of peaceful Syrian citizens? It seems counter intuitive to fight Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, etc. In the fields, yet provide them with weapons and funding “in the mountains.” If President Obama could convince Congress that military strikes would result in a more peaceful environment for Syrians, I believe he would have the support of the majority.
A major battle cry of the 2008 election was NO MORE WAR. A decade earlier we seemed to have unanimous evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, but looking back we feel we were conned into losing over 3,000 Americans in this war. And with the upcoming 2011 Arab Spring, any argument of a successful stabilization effort was laughable. On both sides, Americans were sick of war, which is why President Obama’s suggestion to place “limited” airstrikes over Syria came as a confusing shock met with what some pollsters are citing as 50 percent opposition from American people.
First, we are not sure if we want to help the openly Al Qaeda-allied rebels; second, we’re not sure bombing the country being backed by Russia and Iran is the best humanitarian aid we have to offer.
In a post 9/11 US, it is a hard sell for President Obama to convince Congress to approve military action in Syria. After a rushed invasion of Iraq supported by shoddy claims of WMD, the American people are not interested in rushing into another “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” For the last decade, we have seen our soldiers killed while the Middle East region bursts into further turmoil. Clearly our brand of freedom has not been a welcomed breath of fresh air. Which brings another objection: why is the US still policing other nations? Have we seen positive results from our past CIA-led coups (Iran comes to mind)?
The problem is, unlike in Egypt or some of the other Arab Spring countries, it has become increasingly unclear just exactly who the “bad guys” are. The rebels the US would be aiding are eerily reminiscent of our past meddling (e.g., Libya, Iran, Guatemala, etc.), an extremist portion of the group even being openly in support of Al Qaeda. From videos being leaked online of rebel activity, it does not seem that the rebels are interested in any semblance of a peaceful uprising against the government. Instead of planning to erase the dictatorial tactics used by the Assad regime, the rebels are disturbingly set on revenge. The New York Times published the disturbing words of rebel commander saying, “We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge.” Just after this speech, the commander shot a Syrian soldier in the back of the head.
As Congress considers the benefits of air strikes in Syria, I hope they will also consider the outcomes of aiding extremist rebels in a region in need of peaceful intervention.