@swansok4: It’s good to know that I am not the only Justice Party member who is in favor of intervention in Syria.
I know that I am in the minority, but here is an attempt at the defense of my own stance that I hope you will give fair consideration.
While I am not endowed with an over-abundance of trust in the current administration, I am inclined to believe the government’s analysis of test samples from the site of the attack. (After all, if they had lied, they would not get away with it, given that the UN will release their own independent results in the very near future.) I do not however believe there is any credibility to the claim that the rebels somehow stole Assad’s chemical weapons and used them on rebel and civilian targets in an elaborate ploy to bring in Western aid, as the Syrian-Iranian propaganda machines would suggest.
It had, at the start of this struggle, been my hope that the international response to Assad’s butchery could come through the institution of the United Nations. However, the UN’s continued lack of success, largely the fault of Russia, Syria’s longtime military ally, has decimated my confidence in what now appears to be a fundamentally broken system. And now chemical weapons have been used against civilians, with the Security Council trapped at a permanent impasse.
I do not believe it is appropriate to set the precedent that being an ally of a superpower grants one license to use unlawful weapons to massacre your own people, without fear of international response. Certainly, if a US allied dictatorship used chemical weapons against civilians and our government had blocked retaliation in the UN, we would all be up at arms in outrage.
However, I believe the question of intervention ought to consider not only chemical weapons use, but also the larger humanitarian crisis resulting from Assad’s atrocities and the even greater crisis that could await us in the future. As for the general lack of desire to not get involved in another war if we can help it, which is certainly a sentiment I share, I would encourage perhaps a certain amount of reflection upon the long term implications of intervention and inaction. I do not believe that the question of intervention will change the fate of the Assad regime one way or another. No tyrant can stand against popular will forever. Intervention will only change two things, how much time and lives will the revolution claim and what will post-Assad Syria look like. I feel that these are questions that should concern us, both for humanitarian and defensive reasons.
There are I think two distinct elements of post-Assad Syria that deserve our attention. The first is the sectarian elements of the conflict. As I’m sure you all know, the Assad regime has maintained minority Alawite control over Syrian political and military institutions and has substantially favored the country’s Shi’a minority over the Sunni majority. The longer the war drags on without significant Western support, the more moderate elements of the opposition will be forced to the sidelines and extremist elements dominate the conflict. The concern is that once the Assad regime has fallen, these more radical groups could seek to punish the Shi’a and other minority groups with favored status for the crimes committed by the regime.
Similarly, there is the concern of radicalized Islam within the opposition. As time has passed, more and more foreign backed radical Islamist forces have become involved in the revolution. As the Syrian people lose faith in the willingness of the US and Europe to come to their defense, they will look increasingly to al-Qaeda linked forces such as the al-Nussra Front. Every day of Western inaction weakens the position of the larger moderate opposition and puts the extremists in a better position to fill the power vacuum that will result from the fall of Assad. The consequences of this happening are very disconcerting.
Although I would agree that on the whole, the threat of terrorism is drastically exaggerated for political reasons, I do perceive a significant amount of risk in the potential for a radicalized state with a population that views the west as having abandoned them in their time of need. Allowing Jabhat al-Nussra and other similarly aligned parties to emerge as the heroes of the Syrian revolution would essentially serve to set up the next great American war in the Middle East. And even if no concrete threat was to materialize, the war hawks would still very likely pull us into a conflict in post-Assad Syria for political reasons, especially given its proximity to Israel.
I would much rather offer strategic aid to populist revolutionaries who might finally bring democratic governance to a long suffering part of the world than wait five years and find the country bogged down in another long-term open-ended ground war against an Islamist insurgency among a hostile civilian population. (Sound familiar?)
The issue of the Syrian revolution certainly presents considerable challenge to our party, as an American progressive movement. There is a strong temptation, as a result of our strong rejection of wars undertaken for unjust and sinister reasons and conducted without regards for the sanctity of human life, to fall into the trap of libertarian isolationism. We have heard enough lies spoken about “just wars” that in our not-unjustified cynicism, we begin to doubt that there ever could be such a thing.
But how can we claim to fight for the cause of justice here at home, if we lack solidarity with those fighting tyranny abroad? And how can we in good conscience fail to act when we can save lives in today’s conflict and perhaps avert tomorrows?
I have always firmly believed that it is the duty of the state to protect and defend the people, and not yield to the influences of self-interested institutions of power. It is this belief that brought me to the Justice Party and it is for this reason that Rocky won my vote in 2012. But it is this same principle that would be violated by inaction in the face of this current crisis. And I fear that in failing to stand up for justice in Syria, we substantially weaken our cause overall.
I understand that this view is likely not shared by the majority of the party and certainly by its leaders, and I respect that. But I felt that it was important to make clear that even among those of us who voted proudly for Rocky in the past election there is a certain diversity of opinion. This is a debate I feel we ought to be having, and I welcome the many impassioned distensions that this will likely earn me.
Drew Voss, Nashua NH