Oh, what to do, what to do? The Syrian crisis is polarizing most Americans and is probably creating a lot of angst outside our borders. After several years of fighting terrorism, invading other countries, spending billions (trillions) on defense (and offense), helping promote democracy and order, creating chaos, building relationships in the international community, destroying others, … what’s it going to be with Syria? My general sense in talking to friends and reading about it online is that many people, regardless of whether they are hawkish or dovish, are very nervous about getting embroiled in another conflict.
I’m torn too. On the one hand, I just can’t abide by the thought that over 100,000 (!) people have died in this conflict and that doesn’t consider the number of wounded. In a typical conflict, far more people are seriously injured than die, so the number of people that have been grievously harmed or killed could be in the hundreds of thousands. Additionally, over 2 million people have been displaced (i.e., had to flee their homes). There are only 22 million people in Syria. So, that’s like going into a typical American elementary school, killing two children, torturing and wounding dozens of others, and forcing 40 of them to run away with or without their families and not be able to return to their homes. The remaining children and teachers are left with the terrible knowledge that they too are likely to fall victim to violence and torture in one form or another with no end in sight.
By not taking military action, we leave the supporters and rebels to continue killing each other and innocent civilians. There is no question people will die because of the airstrikes, but will there be fewer casualties in the long run? And is it simply the moral obligation for free people to support the freedom and well-being of all others?
On the other hand, I see two major “cons.” First, the threat of regional instability is most certainly a possibility and that could mean much greater violence than a localized civil war. Just as importantly is the philosophical question of challenging the autonomy of another country and the strong possibility that entering a conflict may not be completely for altruistic reasons. There is a moral element to respecting the borders of others, because if not, where does it end? We have invaded, bombed, and strong-armed so many countries over the last several decades that it’s no wonder people in other countries resent (or hate) Americans. For the most part, I think it’s safe to say that the U.S. has imposed our will on others, regardless of whether the initial reasons for doing so were right (Haiti) or wrong (Iraq). Having said that (and without diminishing the effect of the U.S. foreign policies), the actions or neglect of most countries deserve judgment. But that’s a topic for another day since I’m specifically concerned in the moment about what the right course of action is for the United States, and possibly France, if we are the only two countries considering airstrikes.
So, I’m not sure where I stand on the matter of military action against Syria. I can’t dismiss the genocide. On the other hand, the world doesn’t need another multinational war and its inevitable fallout.
What do you think? I don’t want to oversimplify it with a four question poll, so if you have opinions regarding possible military intervention in Syria, I want to hear it. For the poll, you can choose more than one answer since morality and strategy are both very important and probably separate reasons for taking or avoiding action.