Life in Syria today is, as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes once wrote, “nasty, brutish, and short.” An ongoing civil war ravishes the country. The oppressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad wages battle against a nebulous, undefined mix of rebels, who have regularly employed the same brutal violence of the government. The result is more than 100,000 dead, including many innocent civilians – mothers, fathers, and children.
In late July, I spoke about the tragic situation in a House floor speech.
In response to the suspected use of chemical weapons by Assad, President Obama is now advocating U.S. military intervention. In the past, he has stated the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that Assad could not cross without a serious rethinking of American involvement in the conflict, which to this point has included a significant amount of humanitarian aid targeted to those caught in the middle of the violence.
He has rightly asked for a vote of Congress prior to taking military action, and some in Congress are signaling their support.
In recent days, I have clearly stated my opposition to unilateral U.S. military strikes. The U.S. should not bomb Syrians in the name of stopping violence in Syria.
While quick, unilateral military attacks might satisfy the President's “red line” rhetoric, the collateral damage and destabilization risks are too high.
As Congress returns to Washington next week, I am hopeful the hard questions that must be asked whenever America contemplates military action will be addressed and thoroughly examined. What are the consequences of bombing? Who’s on the other side of this and how much do we really know of the rebels we may be implicitly aiding with a U.S. attack? What happens following the strikes? Why not expend the energy of this debate over U.S. involvement on solidifying international outrage and holding Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, accountable?
The international community must work together creatively to stop the savagery of Assad, but it cannot hide behind U.S. military might. No longer can it be assumed that the U.S. be responsible for fixing all global conflicts, and no longer should the U.S. accept that framework.
For the sake of global stability, a new construct must instead take its place, one in which responsible nations get serious about their own defense and the stabilization of conflicts in their regions.
In light of the increasing brutality in Syria, the United States should advance its support for the innocent victims of this civil war. Meanwhile, we can use the opportunity to facilitate new international partnerships that seek lasting solutions to complicated situations of mass violence.
Until such a united front is achieved, unilateral military action in Syria is not a solution. It may only introduce further chaos to an already disastrous problem.