Although the civil war in Syria is unfolding seven-and-a-half thousand miles across the world, it is nearly impossible to ignore the controversy within the United States. Countless articles, news reports, radio shows and other media forms have voiced their opinions, arguing whether America has a duty in acting as the “world policeman” or if it should hold a non-interventionist policy. Getting involved in Syria would result in another failed intervention, lead to rising tensions within the Middle East and ultimately have no meaningful impact on the Syrian conflict.
The recent military endeavors in Afghanistan and Iraq have left the American public weary of future invasions, especially within Islamic countries. A recent poll of American citizens shows that more than 50 percent believe that no military action should be taken against Syria in fear of the consequences that may follow. Furthermore, American participation in Afghanistan and Iraq proved to accomplish little in terms of foreign relations, both for the United States and the country involved. Consequently, the American political position in the Middle East is not powerful enough to install a lasting, liberal government, so an intervention would be practically useless.
The civilian population is not a cohesive group attempting to fight an oppressive dictatorship. Rather, there are numerous divisions and factions of the Syrian public with two major sections: Sunnis and Shiites. If the United States chose to side with the Assad-regime against the rebels, neighboring Arab nations such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia would no doubt retaliate. The U.S. does not have a strong track record with many Islamic countries as it is, and further stressing the relationship could potentially lead to another expensive and unnecessary war. Investing troops, weapons and other expenses into a conflict that is halfway across the world would no doubt have major consequences on the national debt. With President Barack Obama promising to pull out the rest of the American troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, sending another force into Syria would only reverse his original intent.
On the other hand, many find it unethical for a country as powerful as the United States to sit back and watch hundreds of thousands of civilians be killed every day. Furthermore, if the Assad-regime is overthrown, either the Sunni or Shiite Muslim groups will likely gain control over the Syrian government. The shift in power could have disastrous consequences on the Middle East, which is highly divided between the two Islamic groups. However, U.S. intervention is not the answer, for neither the Sunnis, Shiites nor the Assad-administration are willing to negotiate. Instead, the most practical and worthwhile solution at the present moment would be to have the United
Nations (UN) step in and investigate the situation. Some progress in this direction has already been made, for the UN recently sent in officials to exterminate the use of chemical weapons and monitor the current state of the country. In the future, however, a foreign presence may not be enough to end the war. Some Syrians have proposed to divide the country into three separate sections—a compromise that may be the most effective in year to come.
Perhaps the US government should allude back to what George Washington said in his farewell address in 1796. He advised to hold neutral foreign relations, a policy that the United States seems to have abandoned. Acting as the “world police” has proved to have disastrous consequences in the past that are sure to repeat themselves if an intervention in Syria was to take place. Even if the civil war somehow came to end, there is no telling what kind of implications would come afterwards. The country could be left in just as much distress as before, with a corrupt government and a suffering population.
—Yacobson, a junior, is a