by Caitlyn Tierney
It was barely 3 a.m. on Aug. 21 when the first chemical rockets exploded in Eastern Ghouta, Syria. During morning prayers, Western Ghouta was struck. By the time paramedics arrived, hundreds of bodies lay scattered in the streets. Sarin gas acts quickly, and antidotes are rarely given fast enough to do any good.
For years, the U.S. has vehemently opposed chemical warfare, and the deliberate massacre of approximately 1,729 civilians in a single strike, according to U.K. news site channel4.com, could be considered a genocide. But despite the brutality of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, does the U.S. have a moral obligation to intervene?
Throughout recent decades, the U.S. has stepped into the Middle East with the noblest of intentions. This would be no different—we see a humanitarian issue, and become emotionally invested.But there is no easy answer. Putting troops in Syria risks binding us to one side of the interminable Suni/Shi’ite battle. Supplying the rebel side of the civil war only increases the deaths of civilians because many members of the Free Syrian Army, a group supported by the U.S. which aims to remove al-Assad, have shot civilian protesters. In April 2012, seven Syrian rebels were filmed executing national Syrian army prisoners in cold blood, according to nytimes.com. This type of vengeful action shows how the rebels have resorted to tactics used by their al-Assad opponents. No matter which side we arm, we endanger the innocents we had hoped to protect.
Furthermore, entering Syria without support from the United Nations would be considered an unprovoked attack. The Syrian government has not threatened the U.S. directly. Attacking Syria could incite a war with Russia, Syria’s longtime ally.
And while we can agree that chemical warfare is inhumane, the Syrian government has been gunning down protestors for all of al-Assad’s reign. The regime has killed over 100,000 people with conventional weapons since 2011, according to nbcnewyork.com. Is murder only a problem when it’s committed with toxic gas?
There are civil wars throughout the world. Why enter Syria and not Darfur or Egypt? When it comes to conflicts in the Middle East, the only way to protect ourselves is to remain neutral. By becoming entangled in the web of cultural wars, we risk more than we stand to gain.