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Arguing against intervention

Concordian debates, part I:

Two student political bloggers debate American intervention in Syria

See the opposing argument here.

We are all fascinated by moments rich in irony, like when the builders of the Titanic promised that she was “unsinkable,” or when Brett Favre put on a Vikings jersey and ran out onto Lambeau Field to play the Packers, or when Mitt Romney ran for President as a Republican. But if President Obama gets his way, we will have front row seats to the most ironic moment in history: the United States will go to war as allies of the people who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and murdered thousands of our countrymen.

That’s right. If we go to war in Syria, we will be fighting alongside Al Qaeda, the organization responsible for 9/11 and the brainchild of Osama Bin Laden.

In addition, there are two other good reasons for sitting this one out: the examples of Egypt, Iraq, and Libya, and the message we would be sending to Iran by intervening.

Let’s start with the obvious reason for not going to war in Syria: Al Qaeda. Only a year ago, the Syrian rebellion was led by and mostly made up of secular freedom fighters that wanted the freedom to decide their own futures. If we had intervened then, I would have gladly gotten on board.

Now, however, the rebellion movement has been infiltrated by radical terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, who seek to turn Syria into a haven for terrorist groups and operations. While the Free Syria Army, the main secular opposition force, still fights on, terrorist organizations are steadily increasing their numbers and are slowly becoming the face of the rebellion. Channeling my inner George Bush, I have to argue that if we intervene now, the terrorists are the ones who will benefit.

As if this wasn’t reason enough to stay out, we also have the examples of Egypt, Libya, and Iraq to consider. When the Arab Spring began in 2011, we all felt hopeful that liberty was finally on the march in the Middle East. Scenes of ordinary men, women, and children standing for freedom and celebrating when their hard work paid off brought tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. It seemed that the region was knocking at the door of democracy at last.

Two years later, however, the honeymoon is over. Egypt and Libya are basket cases, with rival factions fighting for power and the countries themselves slipping into chaos.

If our experience in Iraq has taught us one thing, it is that democracy does not happen overnight. You cannot simply flip a switch and expect democratic rights and republican rule to just appear out of thin air and work. In Egypt, Libya, and Iraq, near states of chaos reign supreme. With the strongmen out, mob rule is the order of the day. If we intervene in Syria and dispose of Assad, we will simply be adding one more Middle Eastern country to the list of those teetering on the edge of oblivion.

My final reason for why war in Syria is not a good idea is the message that we will be sending to Iran with our intervention. Proponents of war say that we must show Iran that we mean business, and that we will do what we say. While this is a noble sentiment, I fear that Iran will interpret our intervention quite differently.

President Obama has gone out of his way to tell the world that our intervention will be “limited, short in duration, and no boots on the ground.” Such a war, if we do decide to go in, would be fought with F-16s dropping some bombs and a few Tomahawk cruise missiles being shot from our ships in the Mediterranean. This slap on the wrist would allow us to say “We responded to Assad’s chemical weapons attack,” but in reality, it would accomplish little of value.

Enter Iran. If our attack on Syria amounts to a slap on the wrist, our military deterrent is gone. Iran will feel that they can do whatever they like, without fear of an American military response. It must be all or nothing. If we must go in, we must use overwhelming force, in order to show Syria, Iran, and the world that we mean what we say.

Proponents of intervention make a compelling case: the use of chemical weapons must not go unanswered. I simply feel that it is not our job to be the world’s policeman. If Syria broke international law, let the international community punish them for it. The consequences of intervention are too severe, and a limited response serves no purpose. For these reasons, I feel that we must sit this one out.

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