As I watched CNN in the library yesterday, I noticed a student with tears in his eyes.
He explained to me that he fled Syria a year and a half ago. He told me how much it bothered him that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not own up to using chemical weapons. He felt that the U.S. ought to allow Syria to surrender their weapons before turning to bombing.
However, he also seemed unsure of the right way to handle the situation. He asked me if I could decide whether I would have my own country bombed; it was a question I couldn’t answer. He said that terrorists only make up a small fraction of the rebels, and that we should side with their cause. This counters the narrative our media delivers, which associates the rebels with the likes of al-Qaida.
Before you decide whether the United States should intervene in Syria, you must first ask yourself: Where do you think our country’s place in this world is? Do you find yourself siding with George Washington (and modern-day libertarians, for that matter) when he warned us to remain isolationists?
I support US intervention in the Syrian conflict. I refuse to accept a world where innocent women and children are slaughtered while we sit by and watch like a bunch of kids staring at someone getting bullied at the playground. I believe as the world’s leading superpower, the U.S. has a great responsibility to the international community. However, I recognize that we must act in a controlled and concise manner. The U.S. has certainly made massive foreign policy blunders in the past, and I’m fairly confident we will again. And though recent Gallup polling suggests that the majority of Americans are against intervention and are weary of more war, we can’t let our past cloud our present judgment. We have a chance to make a difference in the future.
The most important aspect of our intervention is the symbolism it presents. The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1990 clearly states that the use of chemical weapons is illegal in terms of international law. Do you believe in following international law? If you do, then recognize that it has been completely and utterly disregarded here. Are we going to allow countries to violate international agreements and face no repercussions other than a mere scolding from the Western powers?
Again, this is not a world I want to live in. There must be consequences for slaughtering your own civilians and violating international law. There are those who argue that since the U.N. hasn’t concluded which side used chemical weapons, we shouldn’t yet get involved. A conclusion hasn’t been reached because Russia and China would veto any measures against their ally Syria. Another striking detail is that although Assad blamed chemical weapon use on the rebels, once the U.S. vowed to take military action, he suddenly agreed to turn the weapons over. It would be ironic if Vladimir Putin, of all people, provided a peaceful remedy to the crisis.
But let’s be clear: This is the first time the regime has actually cooperated with the international community, strictly due to the legitimate threats of force. Such action is a symbolic gesture; as we go forward, the U.S. is demonstrating that if you commit blatant human rights violations, there will be repercussions. I also believe it shows Iran that we take matters regarding their nuclear development seriously.
I support the Obama administration’s intervention in this instance. Although most Americans disagree with President Barack Obama’s plan to bomb Syria, such a threat may force Syria to cease violence. We made progress without the use of force, a masterful chess move. I think this should also show Americans that if we get our hands a little dirty, we can bring about change. There is also a big difference between Obama’s approach and the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.
I pray that the student I spoke with from Syria somehow manages to find a small degree of peace and solace in the fact that on the complete opposite side of the world, there are countless others grieving by his side. I may never know his pain, but I hope that hug I gave him took some weight off his shoulders, if only for a moment.