The United States has, since the end of World War II, acted as a sort of “World Police.” This had led to numerous conflicts, some worse than others. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Pakistan, Libya, and Yemen are the places I can remember off-hand where the U.S. has had troops deployed for battle or places where drone planes have been used to “neutralize targets.” In all of these places there have been far more civilian casualties than most press outlets would have you believe.
In Mazouz’s article, “You’re Missing It,” he makes reference to numerous genocides that were left unchecked for too long. Bosnia and Rwanda. He could have added the more recent accounts in Darfur, Sudan and Cambodia.
His argument is basically that with U.S. involvement, these genocides would not have occurred. A fair point, though of course hindsight is 20/20 and we cannot rewrite the past.
But the topic here is Syria.
The people claiming that what is happening in Syria right now is a “genocide” are on a slippery slope. There is a Civil War. This is an undisputed fact. There are rebels and the entrenched government. This is also an undisputed fact. But boundaries between the two sides have not been drawn by ethnicity, race, religion or nationalist group, all needed to properly define genocide. Many Alawites (the privileged sect to which Bashar Al-Assad belongs) oppose Al-Assad and the Assad’s army is majority Sunni, like the rest of the country. There are Sunnis that fight with Alawites and Alawites fighting with Sunnis.
The civil war in Syria is not a clear-cut genocide and to call it such is a mistake.
So the question then becomes: Should the United States of America, the world’s largest superpower, get involved in another country’s civil war now that there is fairly solid evidence that chemical weapons were used?
In 2003, then-president George W. Bush asserted that there was “irrefutable” evidence that Iraq had “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMDs). The media did not do its due diligence and it came to infamously pass that there were, in fact, no WMDs.
After almost two years of investigation, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), formed by President Bush to find and investigate all instances of WMDs, found that Iraq “unilaterally destroyed” all of its chemical munitions (which, come to think of it, Iraq used against Iran and the Iraqi Kurds in the 80s and that was a genocide and nobody really batted an eye then or even now).
Why I bring this up here is to keep in mind that those same media outlets that asserted there was “irrefutable” evidence that WMDs were in Iraq in 2003 are, a decade later, asserting that there is “irrefutable” evidence of chemical weapons. Some outlets even go so far as to say that Iraq was hiding their WMDs in Syria – all evidence being to the contrary by the ISG instigated by President Bush.
All of this smacks as the U.S. trying to find public support for a very unpopular act. Whereas I don’t think that too many people around North Africa nor the Middle East forget that Syria began, like many other countries, as a form of protest, I also don’t think that too many Americans forgot the recent, mostly disastrous, outcomes in the Middle East.
International opinion, from what I can gauge, is that most people remember the protests in Syria and do wish Assad was out of office.
But what, if anything, would U.S. involvement achieve? Under what right can the U.S. intervene?
The U.S. has recently gone after terrorist cells in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. There have been troops on the ground (my own cousin did two tours in Afghanistan with the Marines) and there have been surgical strikes (such as the strike on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan) and now there are seemingly daily drone strikes throughout these regions – five times a week in Afghanistan – all with the intent of “killing the bad guy.”
The results have been mixed, at best. If anything, it has engendered more hatred toward the U.S. and anything else smacking of “The West,” Europe included.
And the U.S. is not telling how many civilian it has killed in these “surgical” and/or “drone” strikes. A recent document released by the Pakistani government estimates that 746 people were killed in drone strikes between 2006 – 2009, and that almost one hundred of these people were children.
Over the last two years, 70,000 – 120,000 people who have been killed in Syria. That is a lot of daughters and sons and fathers and mothers. This should not be ignored.
Approximately two million more Syrians have fled their home country and are living in makeshift refugee camps. One of these camps in neighboring Jordan, Zaatari, opened in 2012 and already has about 130,000 people living in it, making Zaatari Jordan’s fourth largest city and the second largest refugee camp in the world. This should also not be ignored.
Syria is facing a long and hard recovery. For the U.S. to intervene, it would only make recovery more difficult. One only has to take a look at Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan to see the remnants of U.S. intervention.
There have to be other options. The only option can’t be more war and more guns and more deaths or to do absolutely nothing. The U.S. has power, both military and economic. Perhaps the best role is for the U.S. is to leverage those powers and broker a peace between sides. Perhaps the best way to for the U.S. to neutralize Al-Assad is to be neutral itself.
“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation… I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow… I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first spoke those words on December 24th, 1967. Forty-five years and nine months later, to the day, their relevance remains undiminished.
Lucas M Peters
September 24, 2013