The Plea of the Victims
"Where would you like to live? In a state of conflict or a conflicted state?" -CH
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
The world is on standby. This past week, Syria’s dictator Bashar Al Assad allegedly once more used illegal chemical weapons (CW) against his own people in the town of Douma, where eyewitness reports, horrifying photos and videos of civilians, including children, are shown struggling to breath and in grave despair. Humanitarian organizations are calling for the world to act.
Syria’s regime, and its apologist world power, Russia, have denied all allegations linking the attack to Bashar, and have repeatedly asserted that this is a staged event, put in motion either by the West or by rebels still fighting against the regime, in order to discredit it on the international stage, and to incite Western response.
Now, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have arrived in Syria and are scheduled to begin collecting samples in Douma, where the death toll now stands at over 40. The inspectors however, are not here to determine who is responsible for the attack, but rather if illegal CW were in fact used, and if so which ones.
The international response was varied and colorful. Apart from Russia and Syria strongly denying any wrongdoing and hinting at conspiracy theories, President Trump, in typical teenage fashion tweeted out that American missiles were on their way, “…Either very soon or not soon at all…” and put Russia on warning about its staunch defense of the barbarous autocratic regime, that no more chemical attacks shall be tolerated, and that president Putin should “not be partners with a gas killing animal who kills his own people and enjoys it”.
In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss Britain’s possible responses, and allegedly described the attack as “shocking and barbaric” but has yet to announce what part the UK will play. The prime minister, known for her methodical approach to building consensus amongst a divided party and leading a minority government, will surely be likely to forfeit the UK’s place to be the tip of the spear in this matter. A role that, in order for it to be effective, has to be filled by the United States.
She has, however, significantly toughened her language on this topic, claiming:
“All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible, and we will be working with our closest allies on how we can ensure that those who are responsible are held to account and how we can prevent and deter the humanitarian catastrophe that comes from the use of chemical weapons in the future…The continued use of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has shown similar outrage at the savagery of the Assad regime, proclaiming that his government has irrefutable proof of the regime’s liability -- A leap few have made thus far.
Israel has on the other hand has already conducted airstrikes in Syria this past week, as they have been routinely doing since 2012, firing 8 missiles killing 14 people on a Syrian air force base. The steadfastness of the Israeli response has led few to think it was executed by direct order of the United States, henceforth degrading Israeli strike capability to America’s pet proxy, but both government have since repudiated this interpretation.
The United Nations has called an emergency security council planned for Monday to discuss this issue. It is unlikely anything of value will be decided, as Russia has veto power on any resolution the UN wishes to pass. To further demonstrate the UN’s uselessness in this realm, Syria is officially about to chair the UN disarmament forum on chemical & nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, that is not a joke.
What is to be done? This situation, in all its horror, is by now all too familiar. Similarities are already being drawn with Iraq and Libya, claiming that the disastrous way the West handled these past cases of Middle Eastern regimes and their autocratic tendencies is already reason enough not to intervene.
The far left, and its newly found ally, the isolationist right, both claim that it is neither the duty nor the interest of the USA to get involved in humanitarian crises not directly affecting its own national security. They scoff at the wish for an “American world police” and are quick to draw on the past examples of western inaction and the moral condemnation that follows. Their argument, essentially saying: “if you can’t do everything, why do anything at all?”
This anti-interventionist argument, essentially unchanged for the past 40 years, is once again misplaced and immoral. The last time the Assad regime used illegal CW in April 2017, president Trump responded by firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean into the Syrian held Shayrat airbase. The message was, by all accounts, heard loud and clear by the Syrian regime, which waited until Trump announced his wish to completely pull out of Syria last month in order to use CWs against its citizens again. Syria and Russia have been known to answer to force and determination, and not to feebleness or timidity.
It is an undeniable fact that the world is a safer place for all when the United States military is strong, feared and believed ready to intervene. In the past century, there have been four great threats to peace, democracy and freedom: Imperialist Germany in WWI, Nazi Germany in WWII, Communism, and radical Islam, in the form of terrorism and autocratic regimes. In all four of these instances, the United States military has played a key role in eradicating these dangers. You could in fact say, that in “God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, did in fact step forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
If the United States is ever to give up the role of World police, as the British empire once did, and with a shaky European Union, it will be left to the other great powers, China and Russia to fill in the vacuum. And considering the grave infringement on freedom and human dignity those powers already commit on their own people, one can only imagine the derogations of freedom they would commit under the banner of World “security”.
In Syria, the US needs to affirm its role once more, but certainly not alone. A grand and tightly knit coalition must be formed led by the United States, along with Britain, Israel, France, and all other western nations wishing to avoid catastrophe, and start a decisive air campaign against the Syrian regime. The Russians have proved ineffective and untrustworthy to run the show in Syria, and their bluff must be called if we are to avoid continuous appeasement, and unnecessary horror.
The coalition should seek to knock out as much of the Syrian Air Force as possible, as well as their Anti-Air defenses with precision guided missile or bombing runs. Safe havens should be formed in Syria and near its borders by the coalition forces to ensure medical and humanitarian aid as well as to avoid an escalation of the refugee crisis. And most importantly, the West must stand up to the constant intimidation and bullying by Syria and her unofficial god-ruler, Vladimir Putin.
The free world is stronger in every way than the barbaric regimes involved in these atrocities and must reassert itself as the staunch defender of human dignity and freedom. Although a full-scale land war is to be avoided, we, as humanists can no longer allow these events to go unpunished, nor is it in our long-term interest to do so. In the words of Ronald Reagan:
"As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever."