By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 31, 2013
President Barack Obama has declared his intent to launch military action against Syria; depending on if and when Congress gives its blessing, hostilities could commence within weeks — perhaps even days. I wanted to take some time to analyze the situation.
In July, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said that there had been at least 100,000 deaths in the Syrian civil war. The two-and-a-half-year-old conflict is said to have prompted 2 million Syrians (half of them children) to seek refuge in neighboring countries — this from a nation that had an estimated 22.5 million residents as of mid-2013. Rebels claimed last week that government forces deployed chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb, killing hundreds of people. The attack, which the United States officially believes to have been the work of the Syrian government, is said to have killed more than 1,400.
Syria has been ruled by the Assad family for 42 years; Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad as president in 2000. President Obama has called upon Assad to resign from office. Assad’s supporters include Russia and China; Iran, which is hostile to the U.S., is also among them. So is Hezbollah, a militant Shiite organization that Western many governments consider a terrorist group.
Unfortunately, the rebel coalition is not entirely filled with angels. There are reports that rebels massacred more than 100 villagers because they were Alawites, the same ethnicity as the Assads. At least one rebel faction has been linked to al Qaeda. Syrian leaders claim that the rebels themselves have used chemical weapons on at least one occasion — although evidently on not as large a scale as government forces are believed to have done.
With that in mind, let’s consider a few relevant questions:
• Does the United States have reason to intervene in the Syrian conflict?
Yes, but it’s virtually impossible to argue that our national security reasons are directly at stake. Instead, the best case is predicated on humanitarian and international law interests. Read the rest of this entry »