As the debate over whether the U.S. should intervene or not in Syria continues, new footage has emerged showing the gruesome aftermath of an alleged chemical weapons attack. Lower death toll estimates of the attack range at around 200, while others claim fatalities closer to 1000. In any case, estimates appear to be rising. The Syrian government denies reports of any usage of chemical weapons, despite increasing evidence to the contrary.
Videos below (warning; content is extremely graphic and disturbing):
The disturbing images depicted by the videos have stoked the argument of those who believe the U.S. should take an interventionist approach in Syria in order to prevent such atrocities from being committed.
To be sure, there are several reasons why international forces have been hesitant to come to the aid of the Syrian rebels, as this CNN article explains. As for the U.S. specifically, Max Fisher from the Washington Post has argued that the main reason intervention is unlikely simply because it offers "high risk" but "low rewards" in the realm of domestic politics. Indeed, according to one poll, only 15% of Americans would support military intervention in Syria. Furthermore, the history of U.S. interventions in the Middle East / North Africa (MENA) region impugn the efficacy of military interventions.
Yet one cannot help but wonder how far can the U.S. go in refraining from action in Syria. In the international arena, the U.S. has promoted its image as a champion of human and civil rights, and it has long tried to uphold this reputation. Today, this image of the U.S. as the world's guardian of human rights is being more challenged than ever, especially due to its controversial policies in the MENA region. It is indicative, for example, that ex-president Jimmy Carter recently wrote an article in the New York Times whose first line clearly reads "The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights."
The U.S. is therefore in a quandary. If it wants to safeguard its role as "the global champion of human rights," it has to reconcile the image that it has built internationally with the fact that its excessively interventionist stance over the years has worn down the American populace, and has made Americans weary of costly and controversial interventions. Meanwhile, many innocent Syrians continue to suffer the calamities of an endless and brutal civil war.