Yesterday, relatives of WWI veterans commemorated the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering the Great War. In a twist of history, my nation launched some missiles at Syria, possibly escalating violence there. At times like these, I think it’s a good opportunity to consider the consequences of such actions, along with the specific problems the world must address in today’s political climate.
Why did these airstrikes happen?
According to reporting, these strikes are in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people. According to the BBC reporting, Assad has denied allegations of using chemical weapons, and Russia says that Assad’s forces blew up a terrorist stockpile of chemical weapons.
From witnesses at the area, this isn’t true. Turkish autopsies confirmed sarin gas was most likely used to kill over 80 people in a small town in Syria. On NPR yesterday, there were also reports that this was one of many other chemical attacks performed by Assad’s forces since one in 2013. In short, it means Assad did not hand over all of his chemical agents like he promised the U.S. back in 2013.
How should the global community respond to this?
This is a tough question considering the different interests in what happens to Syria. The Russians support Assad, rebels support forming a different government, ISIS is in the area wanting to take everything over, and other neighboring countries have different interests on what happens next. A clear problem should jump out at everyone: there are a lot of different conflicts going on in that country. None of them address a serious issue of a tyrant killing his own people in order to stay in power.
Wanton destruction and warfare is not a good answer, either. ISIS capitalized off of the limited intervention and reluctance to deal with Assad, claiming its own territory and invading another country. Simply invading without any plan as to what happens next has grievously destabilized many countries in the region. Thus, ousting a tyrant is not a guarantee that things will get better.
It seems like everyone is put in this impossible position. Dictators cannot be allowed to murder en masse, but removing those dictators can cause more problems than it solves. Over the next few days and weeks, world governments will haggle over how to deal with this issue. The only definite thing is that in the meantime, the people of Syria will suffer.
Arguably, a similar thing happened 100 years ago too.
The U.S. intervened in WWI because our people were getting attacked by German submarines. Tabling the issues that raises, the effect brought a nation of almost 100 million people into the war. Eventually the Axis powers got defeated, Turkey lost its empire, and Austria-Hungary stopped existing.
Victory did not bring about a lasting peace. In fact, the post-war peace created some deep problems for Germany. Eventually these problems gave rise to a dictator that killed millions of his own people and started another global conflict. War only solved a few superficial problems; the underlying problems remained. Even that second war did not resolve all of our issues, and we’ve been dealing with the consequences ever since.
Nothing will get better in Syria unless the people of Syria support it.
Regardless of what the world wants, if the people of Syria don’t support it, it won’t last. You can see examples of that in Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan. Those nations are having to learn to coexist peacefully within a larger world, and their growing pains are often violent. There are no guarantees as to who will win.
There aren’t even any guarantees in so-called developed countries. As the world is finding out, we’re just apes living on a different part of a spinning rock. Extremism lives everywhere, and right now it’s fueling a large fire that can burn down anyone’s house.
If the world does intervene, it needs to do so under the direction of the Syrian people. Those are the people that must live with what happens next. Removing Assad is useless if another dictator replaces him. Establishing a democracy is useless if people can get away with violent extremism. Giving people a country is useless if they don’t know what they want to do with it.
Should any world leaders read this, here are my two cents. Ask the Syrian refugees in your country what they want, and then support that. Give them the peaceful and safe environment to form a meaningful course of action, and then everyone can work together to achieve that goal. Until then, everyone’s just wasting human lives.