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Opinion

US must take lead in Syrian crisis

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September 26, 2013

By now most of the world is aware of the ongoing conflict in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on his people.

Assad used sarin; a colorless, odorless chemical gas that disrupts nerve signals sent to vital organs. This disruption of the nervous system most often results in death. The attack killed at least 213 people adding to the many Assad has already killed off, according to the Washington Post.

In addition to this recent chemical attack, a Syrian civil war has been raging on for over two years.

Taking all of this information into account, it is safe to say that Syria is an extremely unstable state.

The recent deal that both the United States and Russia struck with Syria gives Assad one week to disclose all information regarding his stockpile of chemical weapons. In addition, he must turn these weapons over to UN weapons inspectors, sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and promise never to use these weapons again. If this deal falls through, President Barack Obama has asserted that the U.S. will launch a unilateral military strike on Syria.

Obama drew his “red line” long ago, stating that if Assad used chemical weapons, the U.S. would react. Although the U.S. is prepared to strike, Obama’s inconsistent foreign policy has the world wondering if this is simply another empty threat.

Regardless of whether or not Obama’s threat is valid, it has raised numerous questions about just how much the U.S. should involve itself in Syria.

Americans commonly state that it is not the United States’ responsibility to police the world. However, upon closer inspection, it really is. The U.S. is virtually in charge of the United Nations, and furthermore, our country sets a precedent that the rest of the world has traditionally followed. If the U.S. turns a blind eye to Assad’s asinine attack, it will set a new global standard.

Ignoring global violence issues, such as the Syria issue, enables dictators to use weapons of mass destruction to murder their own people without fear of reproach. For these reasons, it is critical that the U.S. intervenes in a manner that eliminates Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons and forces him to pay the price for his treacherous actions.
However, eliminating the stockpile of chemical weapons will still not prevent Assad from killing off his people, nor will it curb the Syrian civil war. The only way to solve the underlying problems of corruption and conflict in Syria is to forcefully oust Assad and democratize the state.

While democratization would get to the heart of the conflict, the U.S. experienced the difficulty, intensity and lengthiness of the democratization process in Iraq under the Bush administration.

On one hand, democratizing Syria would come at a heavy cost. It is clear that fighting a war of this magnitude would cost a tremendous amount of money, and the government would have to spend billions of dollars to put up a solid fight. Furthermore, the U.S. would have to put troops on the ground, just as it did in Iraq, which would inevitably result in loss of life.

On the other hand, democratizing Syria would change the global stage tremendously. It would give the U.S. an opportunity to send the world a message: if you use chemical weapons, we will find you, and we will bring you to your knees.

This message would reach not only vicious, bloodthirsty dictators like Assad, but also terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda. In the post-Sept. 11 era, many Americans believe it is crucial for the U.S. to assert its dominance and refuse to stand down to any enemy.
It is undoubtedly important for the U.S. to hold Assad responsible for his chemical attack, whether it is through the newly proposed deal or through other means. However, if this fight ceases after the chemical weapons are removed, the root problems will still remain.

The only way Syria will regain any level of stability is if Assad is removed from power and the state is democratized. If the U.S. does move forward with any type of unilateral military strike, it must go all-in and make the decision to democratize Syria.

Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.