Damascus is 6,264.4 miles away from where you are currently sitting. There is no uprising in my city, there are no rockets crashing into my street and you do not live in fear of any chemical attacks. So while it may sound heartless, it would seem that the plight in Syria has little effect on the average American students’ life and your life. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While ignorance may seem like the easy option, ignorance does not make what is happening go away. The U.S. Congress will come back with a decision on Sept. 6 and this decision will be extremely important, and this will impact you — whether you pay attention or not.
While the conflict in Syria may just be coming up on your radar, this is by no means a recent issue. A civil war has been raging in Syria for the past two years, with the people of Syria rising against the oppressive rule of President Bashar al- Assad. This uprising was set off as part of the chain reaction of uprisings in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. What started off as peaceful protests quickly spiraled out of control. The president’s regime has a history of violence against the citizens of Syria. The Syrian army has shelled entire neighborhoods and most recently, has been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians.
While there has been no unilateral military action against Syria made by the United States as of yet, the U.S. government has made concrete steps toward involvement. Starting in 2011, the Obama administration made its first attempts to stop Assad by putting sanctions on his intelligence agency, and then Obama called for the president to step down. Later throughout 2012 and 2013, Obama warned that any use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer” for American involvement and would most likely lead to military action. But it was not until as recently as Aug. 30 that the use of chemical weapons against civilians could be confirmed with “high confidence” by U.S. intelligence agencies, and that the death toll from the latest attack on Aug. 21 stands at an estimated 1,429. Obama, attempting to make good on his threats, has authorized a military strike on Syria, and now for the first time in 12 years, a president will ask congress to authorize military action against a country we are not at war with, and the entire world will be watching.
This is why Syria matters. Syria matters because people matter. Syria matters because of what the conflict means not just for American politicians or the Syrian rebels, but what it means for humanity. The global community has already banned chemical weapons as part of the Geneva Convention and has agreed that those who use them are committing crimes against humanity. Obama and his predecessors have always made it clear that America backs this viewpoint, and for months Obama has been threatening Assad even if he only acquired chemical weapons and not used them. So what will it look like to the world if America leaves its threat empty? What will it look to Iran, to Hezbollah, to Al Qaeda if the use of deadly weapons goes unpunished? What will it look like to our allies if a dictator can gas innocent people, even children, without having to answer for his crime?
If the United States wants to continue to be a world leader it has to act like one. If the United States really is the preserver of democracy and the protector of human rights it wants to be, then it has no choice but to act. After all, we’ve gone to war with countries on less evidence than we have backing the statement that Assad is in fact using chemical weapons. While some may argue that failed attempts at trying to be the global weapons police prove that America should not get involved, the threat of chemical weapons is very real. Syria’s pivotal geographic location makes weapons trade with terrorist groups and Middle Eastern countries that aren’t exactly friendly to the United States a very real possibility. So while Syria may hardly seem like a pressing issue now to the majority of Americans, terrorist threats of chemical warfare definitely will be, and by then it may be too late.
Syria itself is so important because it represents the changing political map of the Middle East. Whatever way the conflict ends could have serious repercussions for the rest of the area. We do not know the full impact of the Arab Spring, and whether a democracy or an authoritative government takes hold in Syria may be an indicator of where the Middle East is heading. It seems that a stable Syria may be the world’s hope for a more stable Middle East, while on the other hand if Syria continues to fall into chaos its neighbors may respond in ways that could hurt the United States. That is why the situation is so urgent. It seems as though the United States has run out of time for delays and as the situation rapidly changes, the stakes grow higher and higher for the rest of the world.
This is a rare opportunity for the United States to truly fight depravity and oppression. While no one knows for certain what the effects of military action will be, fighting against chemical weapons seems like a good way to keep conflicts in the future from being so ugly. Syria should matter to you because you are human and we cannot stand behind our American morals and refuse to fight for them. While the Syrians may live a very different life from us, at the core we are all the same, and we all deserve to live in a world where we are protected from inhumanity and evil.
But most importantly, Syria should matter to you as a young person because the conflict is shaping the world we are inheriting. It may not seem like it now, but action in Syria may be one of the only ways to ensure our future and the world’s future. To ensure that the values we’ve grown up with — brotherhood, peace and empathy — continue to survive. While an attack on Syria may not rid the world of all its problems, it seems to be a good start toward a safer future. That is what really matters.
*The views in this article represent the opinion of the author, and not those of CisternYard News.