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heading in the wrong direction

August 27, 2013

Personally, I think starting yet another war/military action in the Middle East is a bad idea, and I’m extremely skeptical of the US’s reasons for doing so. US military intervention across the world has rarely, if ever, been for purely humanitarian reasons; and the majority of our repeated interventions in the Middle East have been detrimental to all parties involved, in my opinion. It’s almost like we haven’t learned our lesson about throwing our military weight around whenever we don’t happen to like what someone else is doing.

I’m not extremely well-versed on the matter, but I think we probably could’ve done a lot more in the way of negotiations and humanitarian assistance to help the people of Syria besides give our lukewarm support to the opposition when the civil war began over 2 years ago instead of waiting until now to really get involved (especially since we’ve supported Assad in the past, much as we did Hussein, Mubarak, etc.). And instead of a bombing campaign, I think we should do things like start giving out a mass of visas to Syrians who want to leave and help them escape this chaos.

That said, I can certainly understand the feelings of people who think that Assad has crossed some kind of moral line by using chemical weapons, assuming he has (evidence is sketchy at the moment), and that immediate, international intervention is now required. It does sound particularly horrific and terrifying, perhaps in part because we’re not as used to hearing about people being killed with things other than bombs and guns and missiles. But assuming that Assad did use chemical weapons to kill people, what’s the difference? How is using chemical weapons to kill people fundamentally different than using conventional weapons to kill them? Why is one more acceptable than the other?

Why does Secretary of State Kerry, for example, feel that killing people with things like drone strikes and troop surges (which kill civilians along with militants) is OK, but killing people with poison gas is a ‘moral obscenity‘? It’s like, “Well, they’re only killing the opposition and civilians with guns and tanks and bombs, so we’ll just sit back and let things play out. Oh no, they’re killing people with chemicals, now’s the time to step in!” Killing people in general is terrible and should be unacceptable, not just killing people with x method. Why does the precise method of killing really matter? It just seems kind of arbitrary to me to be honest.

And if it really is such a ‘red line,’ then maybe somebody should’ve ‘intervened’ when we killed tens of thousands of civilians with two atomic bombs, including thousands from radiation exposure, during WWII, or when we dropped napalm on French towns like Royan near the end of the war, or when we dropped Agent Orange all over the jungles of Vietnam, etc. Are we the only ones allowed to use weapons of mass destruction? Or how about when our allies use them, like Israel’s use of white phosphorous (which can be considered a chemical weapon when used directly against people) in urban areas of Gaza?

People keep saying that Assad has broken international law by using chemical weapons (even though we don’t know for sure he actually ordered their use), which gives us the right to start shooting missiles into Syria. But has anyone stopped to think that these rules seem to be arbitrarily imposed by those with the most/biggest weapons? When we or our allies use them, it’s cool and they save lives or something, but when other nations we don’t like at the moment use them, they’ve broken ‘the rules’ and get bombed/invaded.

That’s not to say that I’m a fan of Assad’s, or that I condone the use of chemical weapons, which I don’t. But I do think all the rhetoric coming out of the US about international law and humanitarian intervention is a bit hypocritical and too little too late (2 years and 100,000 casualties too late to be exact). I’m also afraid that bombing and/or invading Syria will only make the civil conflict more violent and bloody, as well as draw in more participants, spreading the violence throughout the Middle East. If we truly want to help the people of Syria, I think we should really find a way that doesn’t simply involve more violence.

That’s my two cents, at any rate.


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