The United States has an ethical obligation to intervene in the humanitarian crisis plaguing Syria. This obligation is not born from seeking to "spread" western principles of governance, but rather to ensure the sustainability of civilization itself.
In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) spoke to the concept of universal and inalienable rights that forge the foundation of our human existence. Over the past few years, the Syrian government has demonstrated that it stands in stark contradiction to those very rights to which they claimed to ascribe as signatories to the UDHR.
The use of chemical attacks by the Syrian government against their own citizens cannot be responded to with silence by world leaders, but rather demands a response that is equal to the gravity of the crime against humanity itself. If we accept silence as a viable response to the crisis in Syria -- as the British Parliament has done -- then we are guilty of standing idly by while the lives of innocent people are horrifically taken.
The world cannot accept another Rwanda. We cannot merely accept staff meetings and promises of ongoing talks as such merely prolongs the suffering of the innocent. Further, as we have seen in the case of Rwanda, failure to respond to a humanitarian crisis of such a grave nature will only lead to regret in the aftermath of the crisis. This was witnessed by spectators in 1998 when President Clinton visited Rwanda. During his visit, he expressed guilt and admitted "failure" for the absence of the United States in the wake of the 500,000-1,000,000 Rwandans who had been murdered in the 1994 genocide. If there is something we learned from that crisis and failure of diplomacy it is that ex post facto admissions of guilt and regret achieve little more than a media splash. What we are in need of is courageous leadership to demand a two-pronged intervention built on a military strike to destabilize the regime of Bashar al-Assad that is followed by an allied effort to sustain peace and security in a post-Assad Syria.
Some will argue that military intervention in Syria presents the prospects for a quagmire or for a sustained military presence in the Middle East. Although I agree that the potential exists for such, to use this as a reason not to protect innocent lives is to deny the universal right to life.
As a 21st Century global community, we have an ethical obligation to speak out against those actions that seek to destroy the fabric of civilization. If diplomatic efforts fall on deaf ears, then those countries claiming to be "civilized" must intervene with military action so as to ensure that life is preserved. The preservation of "life, liberty, and the security of person" is no longer limited by borders, but rather transcends such as being fundamental to our very survival. We are no longer a world that is separated by territorial divides or bodies of water, but rather we are united by technology and mass communication in a way that makes the crisis in Syria a threat to all of humanity. If for no other reason, the atrocities being committed against the Syrian people must be extinguished so that our children realize that human life is not, and should not be, expendable in the eyes of any government.
When the world reflects on whether or not to intervene in Syria, if it fails to consider its history in response to crimes against humanity, it will respond with silence. On the other hand, if the world's leaders examine history with even the slightest consideration, they will see that ethics compel us to respond for the sake of all humanity rests on the shoulders of the lived experiences of our nations. Silence and inaction will act only to enable a ruthless regime, whereas intervention will at least offer the prospect of restoring security while sending a signal to the global community that life is worth protecting.
The future of civilization itself may not be at stake in the crisis in Syria; however, the universal understanding of human rights is. The time for deliberation is over, the time for intervention is now.