Glawe: America’s burden: Bring justice to those who act with injustice

Michael Glawe

Twenty-two months ago, peaceful protesters in Syria culled the sympathies of the free world when they plunged themselves into the pro-Democracy movement now dubbed the Arab Spring. Their hope was to usurp the oppressive Assad regime and his loyalist Ba’ath Party. Time has not alleviated the suffering as buildings now lay in ruin, millions of refugees have fled to neighboring countries (a million of whom are children) and estimates of the dead count escalate every day.

During that fateful March 2011, it was not in Syria that America, with her allies, defended the liberties of an oppressed people. One need only recall it was in Libya, four days after the onset of the Syrian revolution, that the U.S. launched Operation Odyssey Dawn. The objective was to establish a “no-fly zone” and, in effect, prevent Moammar Gadhafi from using his air superiority to harm civilians.

The thundering of tomahawk cruise missiles unleashed upon Benghazi did not go unnoticed by the Syrian people fighting across the Mediterranean. Nor should it, as several months later Syrians remain mired in a bloody civil war, receiving nothing but a simple condemnation of Assad’s violence. I certainly question as much as any Syrian would, the resolution of the West with its history of capriciousness.

With the recent evidence of the regime’s use of chemical weapons on civilians, it seems natural that the U.S., with all her power, might finally intervene. Yet, as the clouds of sarin are carried away by the desert winds, the U.S. remains uncommitted. Fear of another Iraq quagmire casts a daunting opposition to any military action.

It would be remiss, however, to compare foreign policy on Syria with Iraq. Though their proximity to each other would suggest otherwise, Syria is not Iraq, and it should not be treated so (to be pre-emptive, yes, it is still fair of me to compare intervention in Libya to Syria). Such hasty comparisons are dangerous.

The position that the U.S. should not be “policing” the world is certainly a principled one. Beckoning John Quincy Adams, we should “go not into the world in search of monsters.” After all, it should be the fear of any champion of liberty that America “Might become the dictatress of the world” and “no longer be the ruler of her own spirit”.

There is a sense the Syrian revolution is not “ours,” and therefore we should play no part in their civil war. However, ignoring the obvious humanitarian crisis of this conflict proves us callous and negligent. Those supporting U.S. involvement in Syria have not speedily forgotten the bloodshed allowed by inaction in Srebrenica, Halabja and Rwanda.

Monsters such as Slobodan Milosevic, the Hutu extremists and Saddam Hussein should always be met with the sword of goodness thrust by the world. What makes Bashar al-Assad any different? Or is the world to allow all megalomaniacs a free pass?

John Quincy Adams may rest easy — we go not into the world in search of monsters. They are, instead, presented before us.

This revolution is indeed not “ours.” To say war weary Americans only seek the solace of peace instead of the tribulations of regime change is not imprecise, rather an affirmation. Nevertheless, the United States, with her vast resources, has a duty to protect those who have no chance of protecting themselves. To reinvent Rudyard Kipling, America’s burden is to, as John Quincy Adams so aptly put it, “proclaim to mankind the inexhaustible rights of human nature.”

Of course, there is the option to remain fully uninitiated and to allow chemical nerve agents to seep into the skin of innocent people. Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army will continue to ally themselves to terrorist organizations that intend to seize power after Assad’s fall and in so doing rob the opposition of their revolution.

As complex as the civil war in Syria is, with its endless variety of factions, we must do all we can, short of placing boots on the ground, to prevent Assad from murdering civilians with chemical weapons. Such actions will not stifle the opposition’s wish for a true revolution, either. The rebels and the loyalists can have their war, but when the participators commit acts against humanity, they should be responded to by humanity itself.

Less so, I personally favor support of the rebel army in any capacity. After all, were it not for a vengeful France, a certain 13 colonies would not have carried the day over their tyrant. How odd it now seems that, as I write this column, France is the only Western nation to support military intervention in Syria.