The Arab Spring arrived in Syria in 2011, but unlike the protests in other Middle Eastern countries, the Syrian uprising has only gotten worse. As it has progressed, the government has used increasing force against its citizens.
The United Nations has taken note of these escalations and has previously denounced the Syrian government for its actions. However, no action has been taken by the U.N. Recently, evidence has surfaced that the Syrian government has been using chemical weapons against its own people. There is now the question as to whether or not the U.S. will take action against Syria.
President Obama announced Saturday he was in favor of limited military action, but he would seek authorization for it from Congress. Many are seeing this as political weakness, but I commend Obama for his caution.
The Charter of the United Nations bans the use of chemical weapons in warfare and against a country’s citizens. This charter also bans its members from taking military action against another country for reasons other than self-defense to an armed attack or military insurgence. Since the Syrian situation doesn’t directly affect the U.S., this ban would prevent us from taking action there without approval from the U.N. Violating the charter to punish a country for breaking the charter is exactly as dimwitted as it sounds.
In the United Kingdom, Parliament has already vetoed military action against Syria. France is awaiting the U.S. to give an opinion on the situation. France’s Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, said “France cannot go it alone …. We need a coalition.” The U.S. has moved the USS Nimitz and its strike group to the Red Sea if they are needed for defense. Russia has reportedly sent ships to the eastern Mediterranean. Whether or not a “coalition” will truly be formed for France remains yet to be seen.
The U.S. has a rough track record, to say the least, when it comes to diplomatic relations in the Middle East. If it continues to police these countries without the U.N.’s diplomatic backing, this record will only falter even more. At the very least, Obama must have the approval from Congress to put any offensive troops in Syria. If he fails to do this, I think his presidency will forever be tainted with a perceived irresponsibility. I don’t feel the Obama administration has previously been irresponsible when it comes to diplomacy or military action, but taking action without authorization would immediately overshadow any such precedent.
However, it should also be noted that Syria is not the only country about which the U.N. has to worry. I can guarantee that North Korea is carefully watching, and taking note, over how the U.N., as well as the U.S. and other countries, handles Syria’s treatment of the charter violations. South Korea recently accused North Korea of sitting on a stockpile of chemical weapons. If this accusation is true and the estimates are accurate, North Korea is holding one of the largest collections of chemical weapons in the world. This estimate is between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including the sarin nerve gas supposedly used by the Syrian government.
At this point, I cannot form a definite opinion on what needs to be done in Syria. This has potential to define Obama’s presidency and set the tone for the next decades with diplomatic relations and military actions for the U.S. There is one thing of which we can be sure — no matter what decision the U.S. makes against Syria, the rest of the world is watching and waiting.
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