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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro vs. Con: Military intervention in Syria

    Pro

    More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed and millions more forced into a refugee existence as President Bashar al-Assad tears the country apart with a civil war. President Barack Obama asked Congress on Tuesday night to hold off on its vote on military action while a diplomatic solution is explored, but the threat of a military strike remains very real.

    Although talk of a military strike has only been prominent in the news for a few months, the killing started in April 2011. More than two years have passed since those initial deaths and Syria is now engaged in a brutal civil war that, with its use of chemical warfare, has gone too far to avoid a military response.

    Assad is a genocidal leader intent on retaining power through any means necessary. Murdering more than 1,000 people, including more than 400 children, with chemical weapons is unquestionably a crime against humanity that he must be held responsible for.

    This is not the first time that the world has watched as a country is terrorized by genocide, and we must not make the same mistakes again.

    During the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia commenced a genocidal attack against Bosnia.

    Three years passed as the international community considered action, leaving more than 100,000 Bosnians dead and millions more displaced. Once Milosevic had had his fill of savagery in Bosnia, he moved on to Kosovo, where my family is from.

    Ethnic cleansing ravaged the country as Milosevic continued his vicious campaign. My parents were lucky enough to escape before the cleansing began, but much of my extended family was not. As any child of a war-torn country will tell you, I will never forget watching the news every night in terror and jumping every time the phone rang, sure that someone from my family had been killed.

    President Bill Clinton finally intervened in the spring of 1999, and after 78 days of air strikes and without soldiers on the ground, Milosevic withdrew from Kosovo.

    If the intervention had happened earlier, we might have been able to avert the worst genocide that Europe has seen since the Holocaust.

    “Assad was able to use chemical weapons before and there was no response, and so why not do it again?” Sen. John McCain said in an interview during a trip to South Korea. “They viewed that not as a red line but as a green light, and they acted accordingly.”

    The situation is getting worse, not better, and more innocent Syrians will be killed with chemical weapons if the U.S. fails to continue the threat of military action.

    “Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough,” Obama said in his address to the nation on Tuesday.

    Should negotiations with Russia and Syria fail, which they likely will given Assad’s questionable-at-best integrity, we must swiftly and decisively intervene. Enough Syrians have been murdered, enough have fled their homes, enough live in fear that they and their family are next.

    We should have learned our lesson by now. We should have stopped Milosevic in Bosnia before he attacked Kosovo. We have the opportunity to stop Assad before the situtaion gets even worse and more Syrians suffer agonizing deaths.

    It is our duty as both international citizens and, more fundamentally, as moral human beings to do anything we can to end the bloodbath in Syria before the use of chemical weapons is normalized and the Syria conflict ends up another stain on our history books — an example of incompetent diplomacy, inept world leaders and the tragedy of genocide.

    Fortesa Latifi is a senior studying family studies and human development. Follow her on Twitter.com/dailywildcat.

    Con

    President Barack Obama claimed the Assad regime committed “a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war” during his address to the nation Tuesday night. For this reason, should negotiations fail, the president has said he will ask Congress to approve a military strike against the Syrian government.

    This is a complicated situation, and one that requires caution from the Obama administration. Military intervention should be the last option on the table, even if it just a series of “limited air strikes.”

    Throughout his speech, Obama appealed to the nation’s sense of humanity for the innocent civilians and children killed in the Aug. 21 gas attack. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, of the 110,371 people that have died since April 2011, 40,146 were civilians and 5,800 were children.

    Where was the outrage before? Sure, there were condemnations, but serious talks of military intervention started because Obama drew a “red line” condeming chemical weapons and Assad allegedly called his bluff, though the official United Nations report will not be able to confirm this for approximately another week.

    No one is disputing that a human rights violation occurred, but both the Syrian government and the rebel forces have been documented by the UN Human Rights Council as having committed war crimes, including using child soldiers.

    Jessica Maves Braithwaite, associate professor of International Relations at the UA, explained that a military attack to support the rebels would be problematic.

    “Because ‘the rebels’ is a label that is given to a bunch of different organizations all fighting against the Syrian government, it’s incredibly difficult to know what to expect if they succeed in removing Assad from power,” Braithwaite said.

    During a town hall meeting in Tucson last week, Sen. John McCain was adamant about the merits of his three-part plan to resolve the civil war. He would see us remove Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities, arm the Free Syrian Army and turn the tide of the war to force a negotiation.

    But “the rebel movement involves so many different groups,” Braithwaite said. “No matter which element[s] take power, some others will be unhappy with the outcome and may be inclined to continue fighting.”

    In fact, a military strike could prolong the civil war and increase the death toll even more because the weakened side may lash out against civilians.

    “Research by political scientists suggests that military interventions tend to prolong civil wars and cause them to be more deadly,” Braithwaite said.

    Russia handed the Obama administration a reprieve by launching a proposal that would see Assad hand over his chemical weapons without military intervention. The plan, which should be taken with skepticism given Russia’s close military and economic ties to the Assad regime, at least keeps open the possibility for a diplomatic solution to the situation and an alternative to military intervention.

    Obama claimed that Assad agreed to join the chemical weapons convention “in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action,” but Assad likely knows that threat is limited.

    Obama has said, “I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force,” and Secretary of State John Kerry said a strike would be “unbelievably small.”

    “If the U.S. chooses to engage in unilateral limited air strikes against Syrian military installations, and this doesn’t do much to weaken the Assad regime,” Braithwaite said, “it could embolden him and his forces to engage in more (and more brutal) attacks against the rebels and possibly civilians as well.”

    If Obama is serious about limiting the number of civilian casualties, then he will wait until the evidence of Assad’s chemical weapons use is indisputable, attempt to remove the chemical weapons diplomatically and engage in a multilateral peacekeeping effort with the rest of the international community to force both sides involved in the conflict to the negotiating table.

    Military strikes must be held as an undesirable last resort.

    Max Weintraub is a senior studying creative writing and Italian studies. Follow him on Twitter.com/@mweintra13.

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