My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Syria: to Strike or not to Strike?

When it comes to foreign policy my views have changed radically from my youth.  I am in the same boat as millions of Americans that were once die hard hawks that believed America could and should spread democracy around the world, and have become embittered and disillusioned by 2 long, costly, and indecisive occupations.  Now many Americans that were once very enthusiastic about intervention overseas, now believe America should sit back and watch while all sorts of unmentionable atrocities occur.

This disillusionment has transferred itself over to people's views on Syria, and the recent debate over whether to intervene.  Assad, the leader of the regime, has used chemical weapons on his own people.  Back in the day, say 10 years ago, that would have provoked an outcry for intervention.  Nowadays most people just grumble about how military intervention of any kind or scale is a hopeless endeavor.

I believe we have learned our lesson, and rightly so, from our previous interventions of the last decade. We went in overly optimistic about how easily modern democracy will take root and spread in societies unaccustomed to it.  We also underestimated our enemies, believing they would cower before American might (In fact we were so confident we did not bother leaving troops to occupy towns we entered while moving through Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Guerilla fighters would come out and kill right after we left).  We have been humbled, and for the foreseeable future I doubt any American will be calling for some more nation building.

Nevertheless, I believe we have also over learned our lesson.  Many in America are veering towards extreme isolationism.  I believe whats going on in Syria is a case in point.  While its unclear whether the rebels are better than the Assad Regime, it is clear that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people.  Over the last century the world has strictly banned the use of chemical weapons, and I believe to let Assad get away with using them would be a clear signal to the more unsavory regimes around the world that using such a weapon is okay, and maybe perhaps would even encourage the development of more WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Essentially I believe to not retaliate at all would be to open up a can of worms.  Once you let one get out, all of the worms are gonna reveal their ugly selves.  Regimes will know that chemical weapons no longer will stoke the West's ire.  In addition regimes like Iran may take it yet another signal that we won't do anything about their nuclear weapons program.

In addition while the chemical attacks so far have not been responsible for the majority of casualties.  If the regime gets desperate enough its very possible they could begin using them in even larger quantities than now, resulting in untold death and destruction.  We better makes its clear that using them is not allowed before such a travesty occurs.

Many may believe that killing with chemical weapons is no more terrible than whats already occurred in Syria.  a hundred thousand died before the attacks, why intervene now?  Well first off I already argued that the main reason is to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons, but secondly, while chemical weapons may be an arbitrary line, I believe its an arbitrary line worth making.  I believe its necessary to at least hold back the violence what little we could, plus stoping chemical weapons attacks is a far more feasible goal that stopping all the violence in Syria.  Sending a few well targeted missiles could scare the regime into holding back their chemical weapons, while trying to stop all the violence would be almost insurmountable in comparison.

One more argument many are bound to make is that to strike at Assad would essentially be throwing in our support for the radical Muslims on the other side.  I believe that this argument misses the point.  The point of the attack would be to punish Assad for the use of chemical weapons.  If he stops using them we won't strike anymore.  If the rebels start using them, we will strike the rebels.  Yes, I acknowledge that striking Assad could wind up helping the rebels, but in my opinion so be it.  I think upholding a principle and preventing the proliferation of chemical weapons, along with other WMDs, is a worthwhile goal, even if Assad's terrible regime is replaced by another terrible regime.

Americans should think twice before instinctively denying all intervention in Syria.  Punishing the regime for the use of internationally banned weapons would help reinforce international standards of humane treatment and hold back the proliferation of chemical weapons, and perhaps even nuclear.  Meanwhile, doing nothing would only encourage their use.  Punishing the regime does not have to mean American troops on the ground.  Punishing the regime does not mean we are siding with radical muslims, it means we are doing what little we can to prevent current, and future, atrocities.

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