With over 70,000 people dead, a civil war contributing to regional instability, and a world just standing by while mass killings are a daily phenomenon, is Syria becoming another Balkan war? Will the U.S. and the UN act in time to stop this carnage and restore some order, or will this be a cautious moment for the Obama administration?
Syria could become the opportunity that the U.S. let go because it was too hesitant to act. Non-intervention could lead to serious consequences in terms of U.S. moral standing in the region and the world, as well as the resulting free flow of armaments, instability and increased unrest.
Here are five compelling reasons why the U.S. and the world community should act now to stop this bloodshed, and why it makes sense:
1. We have a moral responsibility to protect the innocent:
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The grand old idea of the United Nations seems to be all but forgotten. In his auto-biography, aptly titled Interventions, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan talks about how the international intervention in the Balkans taught the world body to act and protect human rights and the right to live, irrespective of a state’s sovereignty. The credibility of the UN and the U.S. — as the world's sole super-power is at stake in Syria. Perhaps the world needs to be reminded of these lessons?
2. U.S. moral standing would increase:
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While the notion of intervening in the Middle East is a very sensitive one given the memory of Iraq, there must be a distinction between intervention guided by ideological reasons and actually putting boots on the ground to solve a real problem which concerns us all as human beings. Syria is a global problem and must be seen as such.
3. It would help create order in the Middle East:
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Arrott
While revolutions and leadership changes are always messy and bloody, there is a case to be made for creating some stability in the region. The balance of power remains fragile. A realist perspective would suggest that the world use all its power, especially itsdiplomatic arsenal, to resolve this issue - instead of letting it fester.
4. It could make the UN relevant:
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy
Is the United Nations relevant? Why is it that one or two countries can hold back the entire world from action, especially when the issue at stake is one that most of the member states agree on? Are we witnessing mere platitudes and empty words spoken in board-room meetings, or will rhetoric actually translate into action? Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, the U.S. leadership, and the other P-5 member states should reflect on the Syrian conflict and facilitate the process of negotiations or active intervention as necessitated by the situation.
5. It's a chance for President Obama to work with Republicans:
Photo Credit: Pete Souza
While Republican conservatives are asking for interventions for reasons which are totally different, I believe it makes sense to intervene. As realpolitik, it may be a good chance for the Obama administration to win some allies on the Republican side after all. This Heritage Foundation op-ed captures some of the issues that I am hinting at.
In the spirit of keeping its own house in order, the U.S. is totally giving up on its foreign policies? Are domestic interests superseding any bold foreign policy measures? This seems to be the case, if Dr. Vali Nasr is to be believed.
How the Syrian conflict is resolved will determine Obama’s legacy as well as the U.S.’s future role in the region. While I am not a fan of the prospect of another aggressive American action in the region, there are exceptions, and this one seems to be the case. The time to act is now.