Vail Daily column: Syria: Why do we care?
September 11, 2013
Attacking Syria is truly historic; not necessarily the act, but the nonpartisan divide that has strangely united members of both parties. There are strong opinions, with each offering credible positions.
Within these arguments are viable questions. Exactly, what happened in Syria with the chemical weapon attack? Which is the better group to support — the lesser of two evils? How does our involvement affect the balance of power in the Middle East? What are U.S. interests? What would we call a "win"? What is our exit strategy? Does our involvement actually accomplish anything? Are we being manipulated into another Middle East conflict, and if so, by whom and why? If we aid the rebels, will it be like Afghanistan where those weapons are later used against us in the killing of our soldiers? Why are we alone in our support for intervention? How do we justify an intervention in Syria, while ignoring similar atrocities in other countries?
There are no easy answers, as each response generates both short-term and long-term consequences. Even the decision to do nothing is a decision that results in something. This civil war in Syria has been going on for quite some time, yet suddenly it has hit crisis mode. We must wonder, why now?
The chemical weapon attack strangely occurred at the most inopportune time, during a visit from U.N. chemical weapons inspectors. Now, if you had complete control over those weapons, then certainly you would have control over when they were used. Why would you use them when there was no large-scale imminent attack? Why would you use them when traditional weapons have been equally effective? Why would you use them against innocent civilians when you have the actual location of militant targets? But most importantly, why would you use them in the face of U.N. weapons inspectors? Perhaps, because it wasn't you!
Who stands to gain the most from a chemical weapons attack in Syria? Not President Bashar al-Assad. How desperate would you get if you were losing a war with little hope of gaining additional support? What would you have to do to get the attention of the global community? What if there was no such thing as a useless death in the pursuit of jihad? What if you discovered that you were losing strength and credibility in the region and desperately needed a "win" to retain power? What if you were able to temporarily gain access to the ultimate weapon that could change the entire course of your war? Perhaps you might call yourselves the Muslim Brotherhood.
The lesser of two evils still gives you evil. So we must ask ourselves, why do we care when other nations appear indifferent? Of course, we can attribute some of this to the fact that Obama allows himself to continually be played by Middle East leaders. While some question his loyalty, I submit for consideration the fact that this junior-senator-suddenly-president is just naive. International relations has never been his strength, or even his interest, and he surrounds himself with academics who are expert at theory but inexperienced in practice, thus making us incredibly vulnerable, gullible and disrespected in the global arena. When you carelessly place a "red line" to the leader of another country, then later claim, "I didn't set the red line, the world set a red line," followed by, "My credibility is not on the line; America's credibility is on the line," just makes President Obama look weak and foolish. When he separates his personal credibility with America's credibility, given his position, it undermines his authority and loyalty to the nation he represents. He ends up sounding like a kid caught lying, when he should have simply said that in the passion of the moment, during an election speech, he made a statement that actually required much more evaluation than what he had at the time. Instead, he now hides behind the veil of diplomacy and wonders why others won't join him. It reminds me of the joke, "If it wasn't for the starch in his shirt, there would be nothing holding this man up."
Yet, despite all of the pros and cons of the situation, we must also wonder why it has become so important to us, and less so to other countries. Perhaps, we are torn between the obvious political and economic implications of our actions, weighed against our sense of obligation for human rights.
In a country that was founded on moral and religious principles (even if we didn't always live up to them; we aim high) with "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all"; we consider human rights to be universal, and as leader of the free world, an obligation to protect those less fortunate. As Ronald Reagan once said, "There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right." While we cannot solve all of the world's problems, perhaps we feel able to make a difference in preventing the atrocities occurring in this one, even at great cost to ourselves. Our sense of moral obligation sometimes outweighs our logic. Both arguments in this scenario have just merit, particularly considering the affiliations and history of both sides of this civil war. Neither of these guys are great humanitarians or ethical leaders.
As we struggle with the decision to intervene, let us remember that despite the probability of being manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the suffering and deaths of innocent people are very real. The greatest challenge is in balancing our desire to save the world, with the realistic limitations that we face as humans and as a nation.
The fact is, the United States is truly exceptional; it is not just patriotic rhetoric. We continually work to live up to our founding principles: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." While we cannot make every country into America, we can influence others toward providing an environment where unalienable rights become a reality for all.
Jacqueline Cartier, who has more than 25 years of political communications experience and is the president and CEO of Winning Images, recently moved back to Eagle-Vail from Washington, D.C. She can be reached by email at email@example.com and by phone at 202-271-4165. Visit her website at http://www.cartierwinningimages.com.