Syrian Chemical Weapons: The U.S. Won't Intervene, and That's a Good Thing

The U.S. is currently further investigating the possibility that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against opposition forces. The current assessments have varied, and so the United States have not made any outright claims. The Syrian government denies these accusations and "likens them to false accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction."

These Syrian officials attest that the U.S. would utilize such lies for an invasion similar to the Iraq invasion in 2004. It is true that U.S. officials have noted that if evidence surfaces confirming Syria's use of chemical weapons then it would be a "game changer" and "all options [would then be] available." These are the kind of statements Syrian government officials fear are foreshadowing U.S. intervention.

The government of Syria has nothing to worry about. These backhanded threats are empty threats. The Syrian chemical weapons issue is more of a PR issue than anything else for the Obama administration. The U.S. must condemn the use of chemical weaponry against civilians. The U.S. must condemn President Assad for his heinous actions against the Syrian people. However, the U.S. will not provide military support to the people of Syria.

Ignoring the question as to whether or not the U.S. should intervene in Syria, the important thing to know is that they will not. The Obama administration understands how unsavory of a time this is politically for any foreign intervention into the Muslim world. Coming off the heels of a controversial Benghazi attack, a controversial intervention in Libya, and not to mention highly controversial wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and an informal one in Pakistan, America cannot afford to intervene anymore.

Hegemony can be divided into two categories: hard and soft power. The American public no longer widely support the utilization of U.S. hard power globally. The public has seen past American excursions fail and believes them to be unwise in most situations now. The American government knows it does not have the political capital to dominate the world with hard power anymore. Thus, they resort to a heavy-handed soft power approach.

This entails the United States primarily trying to influence the rest of the world. It is intervention on the abstract level. The United States lets the world know that it does not like it when Syria oppresses its people or uses chemical weapons. It attempts to create the dichotomy of good and evil in the world. If it solidifies the image that Syria is bad, then it does not need to intervene, because the rest of the world will reject Syria and make the nation powerless.

Though this soft power alternative seems less dangerous or problematic, it is obviously not as immediately effective as hard power approaches. The U.S. could intervene tomorrow in Syria and bring down Bashir al-Assad quickly, but it likely would cost them thousands of lives and much more in dollars. The soft power approach is not as immediate, but can bring down President Assad eventually with enough support.

Therefore, the Americans who seek a quick remedy to the injustice in Syria will likely not welcome the soft power approach. Nevertheless, those who understand the political climate of America, the volatility of the Middle East, and the realities of a change in power should voice their support for an American transition toward soft power approaches internationally. This needs to be the key shift in American foreign policy, if America wants to sustain the ability to dictate foreign affairs.

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Usamah Andrabi

Sophomore at Cornell University. Studying Industrial and Labor Relations, with a focus in international and comparative labor, and a minor in Law & Society. Born and raised Texan.

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