Let me start by saying, I think a military strike on Syria is a horrible idea. My faith calls me to be anti-war on all levels and as an American taxpayer (kinda?) I don’t think it’s financially prudent to get involved in yet another war in the Middle East. At the same time, neither do I support the Assad government. If the American and French government investigations are true and Assad has been using chemical weapons on his own people, then as a leader he needs to be overthrown.
Chemical weapons are so heinous in my mind that their very existence merits tense diplomatic encounters. The possession and use of mustard gas, sarin gas, and possibly more dangerous neurotoxins against a civilian population, even one that is rebelling or traitorous, is tyranny. It is nowhere near a fair fight.
I think President Obama is right to demand that the United States intervene in order to stop the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. The United States has typically acted as the UN’s watchdog and stepped in when certain countries are misbehaving. No one should be allowed to use chemical weapons on their own people with impunity. What’s to stop another country from following Syria’s example and using chemical weapons on their own people or on their neighbors?
The United Nations are currently debating whether or not to apply sanctions against Syria — but the problem is that Syria never signed the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Diplomatically, they are within their rights. We, the United States, as both the UN watchdogs and the loudest definers of morality, can’t do anything. But do we really need or want to get involved in another expensive war, enraging the local population in a way that will only hurt us later? (Look at our track record with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan — forget about the South American countries!)
In my opinion, the so-called “Russian Option” (even though rhetorically proposed by John Kerry, so named because the Russians actually went through with it) is the cleanest method. The Russian Option states that to avoid the threat of war with the United States and UN sanctions, Syria will hand over all of its chemical weapons to the UN so that they may be destroyed. This plan is logical and clean and so infinitely preferable, but only if Syria cooperates. The interesting dilemma I find there is that really the only counterweight is war with the United States. For the Russian Option to work, Syria would need to be legitimately afraid of the United States. They should, considering the percentage of our tax revenue funneled into defense, but they’re also allied with Russia. Perhaps this is an elaborate scheme on the part of the Kremlin to restart a not-so Cold War. I doubt it, but still hope it is a way for all of the major players to go home a little calmer.