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Think Twice Before Bombing Syria

From Henry Patton on flickr

From Henry Patton on flickr

Syria has been in a bloody and horrifying civil war since March of 2011, and no end seems to be in sight.  Bashar al-Assad, the ruthless dictator, has made his position clear: he will not be relinquishing his throne and will stop at nothing to defend his post.  This has translated to bombing his own citizens, running over children with tanks, and authorizing the murder of countless Syrians across the country.

A strike on Syria seems inevitable if you look at the news.  NBC World News is reporting that strikes could happen as early as this thursday.  Sources have suggested that this recent call to arms was due to Assad having used chemical weapons on the Syrian people.

Of course, the United States has confirmed with utmost certainty that Assad’s regime was the ones who used chemical weapons in order to prevent another Iraq WMD problem… right?  Wrong.

In the video above, from MSNBC on Monday, Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations urged a cautious approach to intervention in Syria. He said it was crucial not to act without certainty that Assad — and not al Qaeda or rebel forces, which have also been accused of using chemical weapons — was responsible for the attack.

So we are not sure who is using the weapons, Assad or Al-Qaeda.  Neither would surprise anyone in the international community, but thats not what matters.  What matters is that there is no proof in the pudding.  No proof that either used the weapons, and according to these reports definitely no proof that Assad has used them.  Striking a country based on the assumption that they have weapons and have used them seems irrational, and completely out of character for the United States.

Except its not, and happened in 2003 in Iraq.

Lets go ahead and assume that we do not have a clear indication of who used the chemical weapons.  We at least know for a fact and without a shred of doubt that they have been used correct?  Well, not necessarily.

The prospect of a dramatic U.S.-led intervention into Syria’s civil war stemmed from the West’s assertion – still not endorsed by U.N. inspectors – that President Bashar Assad’s government was responsible for an alleged chemical attack on civilians outside Damascus on Aug. 21 that the group Doctors Without Borders says killed 355 people. Assad denies the claim.

Yes, Doctors Without Borders confirmed that they treated thousands of Syrians for neurotoxic symptoms after a supposed chemical attack.  However, if the mistakes made in Iraq taught the U.S. anything then doing our research should be top priority.  We need proof, beyond any doubt, that Syria has chemical weapons, that they used them, in order to talk about such a military strike.  Its not enough anymore to act on leads that, by circumstance, suggest that Syria is using chemical weapons.  This is not to say that Assad isn’t capable or willing to use them, but the burden of proof has apparently not been met yet.

If you’re getting frustrated with reading this and think this is a bit excessive, I ask you to consider the implications of bombing another country and weigh the options of not making careful and correct decisions based on meticulous research and intelligence.  If you’re getting frustrated because it sounds like I’m suggesting that the Assad regime has not used chemical weapons, let me clarify that I believe there is a very high likelihood that he has.

However a high likelihood is not good enough to justify a military intervention like the ones being suggested by the United States right now.  At least not given what information we have.

The bigger question I would like to pose though is this: Why have we suddenly grown so concerned as to wage a military strike on Syria now?  Why not 2 years ago when this whole ordeal started?  I understand the concepts and rules behind the Geneva convention, and how we as a country have vowed to intervene in uses of chemical weapons.  But this is just one of the many methods that Assad has used to kill the citizens he claims to care about.

Where was the outrage when children who were barely 8 years old were getting run over by Syrian tanks in the streets right in front of their parents?  When a country was firing missiles on their own people simply to stifle some rational and well-placed dissent.  There is an indication that Syria used chemical weapons and suddenly this demands a strong, near immediate, military strike?

I get that the U.S. is trying to uphold its obligations to rid the world of chemical weapons, but this newly-discovered rage seems misplaced.

The greatest fear and biggest cause for concern with a military strike is whether or not it will work.  Will this strike cripple Assad’s regime, or cause him to be even more ill-tempered, taking out his rage on the US and his own people.  I don’t know of a solution for the crisis in Syria, and do think that action needs to be taken.  But I don’t think that we have the solid proof we need to justify a military strike.  There are SERIOUS implications to waging a military strike on a country in such turmoil, and I fear what could happen to that region and to our country.  Maybe my position sounds non-committal, and I am fine with that.

My heart cries for the Syrian people and their struggle, and this blog post cannot possibly convey that type of emotion.  As I sit here and write this from the comfort of a safe environment, many people in Syria are wondering if they will be alive the next morning, whether their families will be alive.  Is this the last time I will kiss my wife goodbye?  Will my child be the victim of a bullet from an Ak-47, wielded by a force that claims to be helping us?  Nobody should have to think of these things, but this is reality for the Syrian people.  Will bombing Syria change any of this, or make it worse?  We don’t know, and that is reason enough not to do it.



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