How to Address Syria: Differing Perspectives


Abigail Annear and Mallory Bush, Editor-in-Chief '14 and Staff Writer '14

For the past two and a half years, Syria, a Middle Eastern country situated on the borders of Turkey and Israel, has descended into chaos as its bloody civil war continued to ceaselessly fracture the nation.

In late August 2013, multimedia sources revealed that chemical weapons had been used on hundreds of civilians in the suburbs of Syria’s capital, Damascus. As the intergovernmental organization responsible for global adherence to international law, the United Nations decided to more closely examine this potential breach of the Geneva Protocol, which banned the use of chemical weapons on civilians. Although the UN task force did verify that chemical agents, including both sarin and VX nerve gas, were used, they have yet to confirm whether the Syrian regime or the opposition forces deployed the chemical weapon. Currently, the United States, having gathered their own intelligence, firmly believes that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack, a charge that the Syrian President Bashar al Assad denies.

Immediately after news spread of the attack, President Obama publicly announced that he intended to pursue the issue by employing military action in the form of drone strikes, insisting that no actual military personnel or “boots on the ground” would be needed.  Due to the paralyzation of the United Nations Security Council, which was unable to pass a resolution concerning Syria due to Russia and China’s veto power, and the loss of the United Kingdom’s support, Obama, as a political precaution, sought formal approval from Congress, which was largely divided (not surprisingly) over the use of military force.  Simultaneously, throughout the country, protests against intervention by the American people who, after years of war in Iran and Afghanistan, did not want to engage in yet another conflict in the Middle East, were greatly influencing their representatives, to the point where Congressional blockage seemed imminent.

Before a vote took place in Congress, Russian President Vladimir Putin almost randomly suggested a renewed diplomatic solution be undertaken to end the conflict by allowing Assad’s regime to disclose the locations of the weapons, provide precise inventory of their stockpiles, and then release all of the chemicals to Russia to be destroyed within a short timeframe. Brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, in Geneva, a similar resolution came into fruition and is currently being implemented under the watchful eyes of the UN, the US, and the rest of the world.

The American people still remain divided over the question as to whether or not the United States is obligated, based on our humanitarian and democratic foundation, to intervene when a government attacks its own people with chemical weapons.  Many argue that a myriad of regimes have repeatedly killed  civilians by means other than chemical weapons throughout history, most of which didn’t “warrant” American intervention.  Others believe that the United States, as the supreme military power of the world, is the only nation capable of impacting the behavior of a tyrannical leader and must interpret violations of international law and human rights as justification to use that power to act. Regardless of how people feel, it will be a significant amount of time before anyone can establish what the right decision is, which should always consider use of diplomacy over any military force as the most beneficial course toward resolution.