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September 29, 2023

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US involvement in Syria is pointless

I doubt that when the wave of sectarian violence swept across Iraq between 2006 and 2008 that many of us imagined that it would find its way to Syria.

I imagine that fewer people still could have conceived of the level of violence that has transformed Damascus into a warzone.

For several years now, the leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad has been waging a repressive war against his own people to retain his grip on power. This violence has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the engagements between Syrian troops and rebel forces show no signs of abating.

The question has been before the U.N. and the western world for two years now as to what, if anything, should be done about the situation.

The general consensus is that Assad’s war against the rebels and the recent allegations of the use of chemical weapons against them constitutes military action against his regime. However, I fear that all too often we as Americans fall victim to such simplistic, black and white thinking.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is something the Obama administration called a “moral obscenity.” The reason for these harsh words against Assad’s regime has less to do with Syria and more to do with the integrity of the Obama administration.

Last summer, President Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a ‘red line’; in other words, it would most certainly warrant military action.

Now, President Obama must choose between looking like a pushover and following through on his word. Given the almost universal condemnation of Assad’s actions across the globe, it would appear Obama has his work cut out for him, but the people must realize that such an action would be one of hubris, not of altruism.

Even if we did invade Syria [or if we did so alongside the U.N.] it would not go far toward achieving lasting peace in the region.

No one seems to be asking what will happen once Assad’s regime is toppled and order is restored.

If we politically back the election of a new leader, we will arouse that much more resentment from the surrounding Arab nations. If we step back and let elections proceed as normal, we risk Syria going the way of Egypt.

The underlying problem in all of the recent unrest in the Middle East is ultimately not political, but religious.

The Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam, just like the rest of the children of Abraham, are in the midst of an inter-Nicene war that is now millennia old, and one that has taken many forms throughout the course of history.

In many ways, Syria is a proxy war between the Sunnis and Shiites just as Vietnam was a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. There have been fighters coming from across the Middle East to join the Syrian Conflict; some from as far away as Saudi Arabia and the Sudan.

This was always bigger than Syria, and if the U.S. hopes to come out of this respectably, then it must act through the United Nations and not as a sole entity. We made the mistake of invading Iraq without U.N. approval, an action whose sobering arrogance was summed up in the words of former President Bush: “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.”

If the U.N. does not mitigate crises such as these, then it has no real purpose, and if the U.S. continues to enforce its will through violence, without U.N. approval, then it won’t be long before we have no more allies left to ignore.

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