Song for Syria (Part 3)

I have written previously about Syria and if you want some additional background you can read here and here.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks you already know that on August 21st the deadly chemical sarin was used in Syria and resulted in the deaths of between 300 and 1400 people.

President Obama immediately condemned this latest attack and began actively deliberating on an American military response, culminating in a speech he gave this past Saturday in which he indicated that he was willing to take military action against Syrian “President” Assad. He asserted that he felt his executive power gave him the ability to act unilaterally in this matter but that he would go to Congress to request an authorization for the use of military force in Syria.

As a result of his announcement, President Obama succeeded in doing the unthinkable in today’s political climate. He managed to create division in the Democratic and Republican parties at the same time. Many Liberals are against commencing any military action at all. Similarly many Conservative Libertarians favor not getting involved in matters that concern other nations. Meanwhile there are some Republican warhawks who have been pushing for America to get involved in Syria from the beginning and there are some Democrats who see some merit in getting involved in Syria to stop a looming humanitarian crisis.

Once I heard of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, my gut response was that America had to do something. It is true that America is tired of wars and would rather focus on domestic issues. I am in agreement with this. I have seen family friends carry the burden of our war efforts over the past decades.

However, I also feel that there are some international norms that must be upheld.

  1. Weapons of Mass destruction in the form of Nuclear Weapons must not be used under any circumstances.
  2. Weapons of Mass destruction in the form of Chemical Weapons must not be used under any circumstances.
  3. Genocide cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
  4. The value of human life must be respected above all else regardless of race, color, creed, ethnic group, religion, gender, etc.

It was in support of these international norms that President Obama articulated his red line that something would have to be done if the Syrian government used chemical weapons. It appears that now the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and therefore something must be done.

Many people say that the United States is rushing to commence military action when all the facts of the situation are not in. There is some truth to this. All we can know for certain is that the chemical agent sarin was unleashed in Syria and as a result a number of people died.

We can’t even know for certain if the Syrian government released the gas. The Syrian government has denied it and Russia is blocking any military action against Syria in the UN on the basis that it would be absurd for the Syrian government to use a chemical attack when the war was turning in their favor and they knew the international community was monitoring the situation.

Despite this it is highly likely that it was the Syrian military that released the gas. The rebels fighting against the government do not have the capacity to make chemical weapons, and just as the Syrian government claims it would be illogical for them to use chemical weapons, it is probably more illogical that the rebels would use them. The gas killed citizens whose support they need and furthermore they would have had to get the weapons from a state that already has them. Needless to say, there are few states that have those kind of weapons that would freely give them to the rebels. Some of the rebels are made up of terrorist groups which are just as likely to use chemical weapons outside of Syria as inside. Another point is that the biggest candidate (read Iran) to give chemical weapons is actually on the side of the Syrian government, not the rebels.

So I’m of the belief that the Syrian government did release the chemical weapons and that the Syrian government is in violation of the international norm against using chemical weapons. This would make the UN justified in undertaking a more active role in the events in Syria. However, as I said before the UN is prevented from doing so by Russia.

As a result, I believe that the responsibility to take action necessarily falls on the United States. I will speak more about why I believe this to be the case in Part 4.