Should the United States intervene with a military air strike in Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians last month? It's a question that has lawmakers going back and forth, with many leading Democrats and Republicans backing President Obama's proposed air assault, but still some in Congress aren't fully convinced -- and neither are most Americans.
According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, the majority of Americans oppose any U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war, and that makes sense for many different reasons. Right now, Syria currently poses no direct threat to the national security of the United States. It has been involved in a bloody civil war since 2011 when protestors started demonstrations against the Ba'ath party, led by Bashar al-Assad. Since then, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed. So let me get this straight: 100,000 people have been killed in this civil war and we've done absolutely nothing. Now Assad allegedly gases 1,400 of his own people and suddenly we're attacking? This shows a lack of consistency in our policy.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "Our military objectives in Syria would be to hold the Assad regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks and deter it from further use of chemical weapons." Even if we were to move forward with an air strike, our limited bombing would not be enough to stop the civil war, and would probably just kill more innocent civilians in the process.
Once the United States militarily gets involved in Syria, there is no turning back. President Obama has said if the United States moves forward with the air strike, it won't turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan, and he said, "We're not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach." However, anyone who believes limited strikes will not escalate into larger scale commitment is underestimating the complexity of the conflict. And besides, the United States isn't even committed to a regime change.
If an attack does take place, the state of global relations could become severely impacted. Any military action will stir up an already angry hornet's nest including Russia and Iran. Russia has strong ties to the Assad regime, and has already lashed out at the United States. Russian president Vladimir Putin rejected the American evidence that Syrian forces used chemical weapons, calling it "utter nonsense."
Iran recently sent 4,000 troops to Syria, and a U.S. air strike could increase tensions and reignite hostility over their nuclear program. Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the United States today, saying, "We believe that the Americans are committing a folly and mistake in Syria and will, accordingly, take the blow and definitely suffer."
Furthermore, a U.S. invasion in Syria could also have deadly consequences on Israel. The Syrian government could potentially retaliate with strikes against Israel, opening up an even greater Middle Eastern conflict.
Financially speaking, we cannot afford another military engagement. The United States is $17 trillion in debt and still winding down from the questionable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. America invests almost $700 billion per year on the military. The problem is a big chunk of the defense budget doesn't make us any safer; it simply gives us a dominant presence on foreign soil. Who are we as a country to impose our will on other nations? Who died and made us king? What makes the United States government believe they know better than other governments? It's no wonder so many people around the world hate us and resent our intrusion.
The United States is undisputedly the most militarily powerful nation in the world and even our worst enemies admit it. There's no need to prove we can drop bombs on people. The United States doesn't lack credibility; what we lack is the discipline to stop intervening in other country's problems. No one elected us the policemen of the world, and it's time we stop sticking our nose in everyone's business. We have major, unprecedented problems at home that need immediate attention from the president and Congress, instead of diverting their focus to Syria.
To reach any kind of solution on Syria, President Obama needs to engage the international community that set the "Red Line" and reach agreement on how to address it as a coalition. This is not America's problem; it's the world's problem, and our partners and allies should be included in the decision making process as well as any action we may take as an international force. Until then, critical thinking suggests there are too many negative consequences and no pressing reasons why we should be considering an air strike on Syria at this time.