Opinion: Avoid emotions in Syrian intervention

Posted on Apr 13 2018 - 5:55am by Reagan Meredith

Last April, the town of Khan Shaykhun, Syria was forced to inhale sarin nerve gas. At least 74 people were killed and more than 557 were injured. In response, President Donald Trump unleashed 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat Airbase.

On March 7, the town of Douma, a Syrian city east of the capital of Damascus, experienced a chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians just like the ones we have seen before in Syria.

This particular attack killed at least 42 people and injured more than 500, although the numbers are expected to rise.

This time, President Trump took to Twitter and promised that the U.S. would launch missile strikes against Syria, going against the Russian government which has shown support for the Syrian regime.

The recent attack and the imminent response from the U.S. and its allies have led me to provide some thoughts on the subject.

What we should first ask ourselves is: Did Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, do it?

To be clear, I am not saying that Assad did not do it. I think he did, but military intervention at the level discussed over the past few days should require that we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he did it.

Considering that our media gets all its information from U.S.-funded rebel groups, this is not particularly clear.

Let’s assume that Assad, or as Trump called him the “Gas Killing Animal,” is the culprit.

Before a president even considers intervening in a foreign country, the U.S. Constitution requires that he get congressional approval. Article I of the Constitution reserves the power to start a war to Congress.

This means that President Trump’s attack on Shayrat last year was unconstitutional, as well as President Obama’s bombing of Libya.

However, a Congressional approval for war would and should reflect the will of the American people. This presents an obstacle because polling from last year indicates that a large portion of Americans disagreed with President Trump’s decision to launch an airstrike, and that only 22-percent support the U.S. taking an active role.  

Let’s assume that Congress turned against the will of the American people and approved military intervention. What is the goal? Is it to oust Assad? Or is it to be something symbolic like the attack on Shayrat?

If you think the answer is the former, ousting Assad is not as simple as it seems. Who would replace him? The people of Syria would not accept an existing rebel group as their leader. If you think a similar Shayrat attack is the answer, I challenge you to consider the 70 people that died on Saturday in spite of it.

The most troubling thought is one of great consequence. If the United States and Russia continue to invest their resources in minor international actors such as the Kurds or Assad, the risk of even a slight miscalculation by a minor actor causing a World War III-type clash between major powers becomes higher by the day.

The U.S. has been actively intervening in Syria for 10 years. Assad is still arbitrarily killing his people. Red lines are still being drawn in the sand, although I hope that French President Emanuel Macron does not back away from it like Obama did.

Whatever your solution is, consider these factors with extreme importance before pushing emotion-based solutions.

Reagan Meredith is a sophomore political science major from Monroe, Louisiana.