Among the most prominent problems in current events is the bloodshed occurring in Syria. Some have called this an uprising, others have called it a civil war.
These proposed courses of American action, coming from both sides of the political aisle, may be classed under three strategies.
The first possible plan involves direct military action. John McCain has been one politician consistent in the urging of this kind of action. Earlier this month, he was critical of the government’s position up to this point, of not intervening militarily. McCain said “I am confident that if we overthrow Bashar al-Assad the people of Syria will do exactly what the Libyan people did yesterday … vote for a democratic and freely-elected government.” What Senator McCain failed to recognize was the results of the intervention in Libya—the establishment of mob-rule, and the prominence of Islamists.
This solution (i.e. either directly putting troops on the ground or using air strikes) simply will not work. Whether used in Vietnam or Libya, the results have been the same. Also, consider the Syrian Rebels. They are not a group similar to our Founding Fathers (a revolutionary movement considered to be the epitome of what is ideal in a revolution). As the Telegraph reports, Al Qaeda is undoubtedly present in the ranks of the rebels in Syria. Not only this, but some of the rebels proudly display the flag of Al Quaeda.
The second solution some advocate, and already tried somewhat, is one of a peacekeeping force. In June, the UN withdrew their own observers, due to the increase in violence. A theoretical course of action along these lines would involve various nations working together, along with the United Nations, to bring about “peace” in Syria. As with other instances where something similar has been tried, this too shall fail—take Somalia as an example.
The third solution is one that does not involve any military action, though it still does equate to intervention in the conflict—sanctions. This solution constitutes the banning of trade or transaction (in varrying degrees) with the said country (obviously being Syria, in this case). Some sanctions have already been put into by place by the American government. But this is not enough—the American government has put more sanctions in place. While this class of intervention may seem the most logical of the three, this is still presents a problem. Sanctions alone will not bring about the political change desired by many. Many Syrians, on both sides, will likely utilize the black market—something the rebels are very likely already using (logically, due to both a need and their ties to Al Qaeda).
What then is left to be done in Syria? Nothing, at least that one can find. As already established the solutions argued for by many, whether military or economic, will not bring about a stable nation. On the contrary, aiding the rebels would bring about a state dominated by Islamists, and a new breeding ground for terrorism.
Intervention in the conflict raises an entire slough of questions. Very simply, one could question the motives behind stepping in the Syrian conflict. Proponents of stepping in could argue a number of positions—including humanitarian reasons or the need for a change in the Syrian government. But, if these are the justifications for action (our nation’s own security aside), then why not take similar actions against other nations in the world? Why not do the same to every bad government in Africa, Latin America, or Asia? If one answers “No,” to this, then the position is relative in nature. Therefore, an entire new set of philosophical questions need to be answered—apart from those on the basic level of intervention.
Conflicts, like the one in Syria, is not easy to solve. Very often, neither of the major sides is “righteous” or even “good.” The Syrian government, clearly, is not “good.” This is, after all, the government that has been accused of murdering civillians. But, on the other side, the Syrian Rebels are by no means careful, concerned warriors. This is the “side” that has Al Qaeda support.
The world we live in is flawed and imperfect—this is merely “the way it is.” As a result of this, the best policy is seemingly difficult and far from ideal. The Syrian conflict is no different than this. If our government chooses to intervene, it will do so on the side of Islamic militants. It is saddening to hear of the violence and turmoil that comes out of Syria, yet intervening yields nothing good. In fact, intervention would harm the United States, due to prominence of Al Qaeda in the rebel movement.
Again, Syria is not an easy question to answer. Frankly, the “solutions” of meddling are unable to solve the problem. Therefore, there is no solution that our government may take—it cannot solve the conflict. This position—both of the utility of taking action and of the philosophical problem of intervening—is not the musings of a single cynic, but the philosophy of the Founders and the Constitution.
Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac