On Tuesday, the military force of Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria, reportedly used biological weapons — most likely mustard gas and ricin, among others — on the rebelling Free Syrian Army in the capital city of Damascus. The creation and use of such weapons is prohibited by the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention and, as such, has created a sudden call for intervention.
In this scenario, there are two realistic options that the United States has. The first: to step in and take military action, remove al-Assad from power and allow the FSA to take control of the government. Option number two: step away from all of this and let those in Syria settle this themselves — however it plays out.
As it stands now, it appears that the U.S. armed forces are preparing to intervene and act as a police force once more. While Press Secretary Jay Carney said that “nothing has been decided,” President Barack Obama made it clear that the biological attacks crossed a line. Meanwhile, a senior official in the department of Defense said that a strike, which would most likely be accomplished through a missiles sent from naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea, could be completed “within several days.”
If the powers that be change the apparent plan of action, then the only thing that would be needed would be a firm statement from Obama on the decision and why it was made.
The issue with the conflict is that there is no right answer from a foreign affairs viewpoint. If we intervene, we draw the ire of Syrian allies like Russia and China and further widen the schism between us. If we do nothing, then we are criticized by Western nations for stepping in and taking care of serious war crimes.
Muddying the waters more is a recent Reuter’s poll that found that 25 percent of Americans thought that the use of chemical weapons would warrant an intervention and 9 percent thought that Obama should act on the issue at all.
So what’s a President to do?
Nothing. Do nothing.
Going to war once again in the Middle East is not a good decision, no matter if it’s “several days” or several months or several years. American involvement in the region since 2001 has turned the American people against involvement of any type. In this age, where any move whatsoever will draw criticism from all sides, our government’s first priority should be to its own people.
Yes, it is terrible that people are subjected to such horrific attacks for holding certain political beliefs. And yes, the US has a history of stepping in when these things happen around the world. But now is the chance to set a new precedent for our foreign affairs and establish that our country will not go where it is not wanted. Given our past of poking around where we are not welcome, maybe stepping back and letting other nations — nations that are jumping at the bit to help the FSA right now — work it out isn’t the worst idea right now.