U.S. involvement in Syria is crucial

By Zac Bears

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The much-debated possibility of U.S. involvement in Syria is similar to previous U.S. missions that we saw two years ago in Libya, and to operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s. We are not putting “boots on the ground,” a major element of all three military actions previously mentioned; there will be no American soldiers in danger of attack. With no American infrastructure, assets or personnel in Syria, there is little chance that the U.S. will become bogged down in an unwanted conflict. With those facts established, it is clear the U.S. involvement in Syria is temporary and presents little danger to the U.S.

Bashar al-Assad is a danger to American foreign interests. He and the Syrian establishment he represents support the militant group Hezbollah as well as hard-line conservatives in Iran. Syria has been a thoroughfare for weapons, including both small arms and rockets, travelling from Iran to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, and these weapons have killed Israeli civilians and perpetuated regional instability for decades. Thus, removing Assad from power must be a primary goal of U.S. diplomatic and military leaders.

With over 100,000 people killed and 2 million displaced, this is a humanitarian crisis. Using chemical weapons to attack the civilian population in response to a rebellion against totalitarianism is the act of a dictator. As both the world’s beacon for freedom and its largest military power supporting human rights, the United States has the responsibility to act. Removing an out-of-control dictator from power and ending his control over chemical weapons is the only logical response of such a nation.

Many fear that the U.S. is intervening to spread its own form of democracy to Syria because the U.S. ostensibly attempted to “democratize” a dictatorship and spread freedom to an un-free nation during the war in Iraq. Not once since the Cold War has the United States actively engaged in a military action solely to spread freedom and democracy. Neither realist theory nor internationalist theory professes that a nation should take unilateral action to spread their singular belief on another nation, and neither Bill Clinton’s nor Barack Obama’s administration have acted in such a way.

In fact, the neoconservative ideal of spreading American freedom and democracy across the world was thoroughly whacked by the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2006, liberals and moderates across the nation rose up to throw out the neocon Congress that signed off on military action in Iraq.

U.S. action has always been focused on providing the citizens of other nations the right to determine what form of government suits them best, and, quite often, supporting the removal of a dictatorial or totalitarian regime that uses deadly force against civilians to suppress these rights. Americans did not force the three branches of government, a bicameral Congress or an overpowered independent executive on Tunisia or Egypt. Even Iraq has a parliamentary system with few similarities to American government.

The ideal of spreading democracy alone did not convince both the public and Congress to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and sacrifice thousands of U.S. lives to Iraq; what did convince them was the “knowledge” of the “presence” of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The existence of WMD in Syria has been proven. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that at least 500 people, including women and children, were killed by Assad’s sarin gas attack. The U.S. is stating the as many as 1,400 people were killed, including almost 400 children. We had no evidence of the existence of WMD in 2003 Iraq. Not only do we have evidence of WMD in Syria, but we also have evidence of their recent use on a civilian population.

Supplying weapons, medicine and other resources to rebel groups lacking cohesion is a risk, but refusing to take action and allowing Assad to continue attacking his own people, innocent or guilty, is an even greater risk. Should the rebels fail without Western support, Assad will have consolidated control over Syria through violence and the elimination of his enemies.

The U.S. is not in this alone. As we support the rebels, other Western powers will come to our aid as they did in Libya. Assad is incompatible with the peaceful future of humanity. Imploring democratic elements of the Syrian rebels to establish self-government after Assad is gone will be arduous, but first the U.S. must ensure that Assad does not remain in power. Western nations must back that guarantee with the supplies that the rebels need to overthrow this dictatorial regime and provide the assurance of NATO military forces so that Assad will not be allowed to end this war with sarin gas.

Zac Bears is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].