As President Barack Obama stated in his address to the nation on Tuesday night, the United States is exceptional because of our ability to realize when basic human rights are being violated.
If that’s true, why have we stood by and watched 100,000 people, children included, be killed in Syria over the last two years?
And if that’s true, why are we still questioning whether our involvement is needed after 1,200 civilians were killed by a chemical gas attack on Aug. 21?
After I watched a painful video clip from CNN that featured real footage of Syrian civilians suffering from sarin gas, the need for U.S. intervention became clear to me. I firmly believe Obama should move forward with the missile strikes that he has proposed.
The mass killings in Syria began as a result of widespread rebellions, which started in 2011 with the Arab Spring. One year later, in August 2012, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was killing hundreds of innocent Syrians. At that time, Obama stated in a press conference that he did not think the situation was significant enough for us to intervene, as Assad’s means of murder were still considered “acceptable” warfare. What Obama did say, however, was that the moment Syria begins to use chemical weapons, we would step in.
That moment came and went on Aug. 21. Unable to suppress the rebellions, forces under the control of Assad unleashed the outlawed chemical weapon sarin gas on Syrian civilians. Which brings us up to right now, the debate over whether or not to unilaterally begin a missile strike in Syria in an attempt to stop Assad and his army from further using chemical weapons.
Obama’s verbal establishment of a “red line” gave the U.S. very little leeway with the situation in Syria. Now that Assad has crossed that line, it is in our best interest to follow through with Obama’s threat from 2012.
During the Senate’s hearing earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, in regards to the possible outcome of the U.S. not sending missiles, that “our inaction would surely give them a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention if not to put it to the test.” If we back down, in other words, we are giving other countries reasons to take advantage of our leniency. Importantly, we are giving Iran specifically a reason to foster the weapons of mass destruction that Obama’s administration has adamantly forbidden.
However, this past Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed the idea of placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, instead of the U.S. launching a missile strike. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, representing Assad, affirmed that Syria “welcomes” Russia’s proposal. Assad also vehemently urged against a U.S. missile strike, threatening the United States with severe destruction if we follow through with it.
But to John Kerry and many other politicians, Russia’s proposal and Syria’s quick approval of it, seems very suspect. Kerry made the argument that Assad’s willingness to give up the chemical weapons he has denied using just doesn’t make sense.
CNN’s heartbreaking video illustrates the fact that U.S. military intervention is needed to stop the Syrian government from killing its people.
It is unfortunate that we did not recognize this back in 2012, and it is imperative that we don’t back down now. Offering Assad the easy, unsafe and unreliable way out by allowing him to give up his chemical weapons just simply will not cut it.