Hilary Legge, ‘Doah Managing Editor
September 4, 2013
The violence and destruction of the Syrian civil war reached new heights on Aug. 21, when the Syrian government reportedly used the nerve gas sarin on its own citizens, killing more than 1,400 people.
After assessing the evidence they had acquired, all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies released a report stating they had “high confidence” that chemical weapons had been used to kill men, women and children in the Syrian suburb of Damascus.
The issue of U.S. involvement in Syria has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time now, and with this most recent revelation it has finally come to a head.
Protests have broken out across the globe both in favor of and against the U.S. intervening in Syria. On Saturday, Aug. 31, President Obama spoke on the issue in the Rose Garden of the White House.
“This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”
In the week leading up to this speech the United Nations Security Council had been meeting to decide on how to handle Syria. A British-proposed resolution to authorize military force never even came to a vote, as it was certain to be vetoed by Russia. Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, has stated that it does not believe the Syrian government would have done this as they are already winning the war.
U.N. inspectors in Syria are still working to find concrete proof that the alleged chemical attacks took place. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated on Wednesday that the organization was going to wait until their chemical weapons inspectors concluded their work to come to any final decision. However, it is still extremely unlikely that Russia will vote in favor of military action, which means the U.N. will almost assuredly do nothing.
Due to this, it seemed as though history was about to repeat itself, with the U.S. once again taking military action in a Middle East nation without the backing of the U.N. However, being mindful of this, and the fact that the American public is primarily against intervention in Syria, Obama declined to launch an immediate air strike.
“But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
Many in Congress have expressed their dissatisfaction with how Obama has handled Syria thus far, both his action and inaction. By making Congress a part of the decision, he shifts some of the burden off of himself and forces his critics to take a stand beyond hollow posturing. If the resolution does pass Congress it will most likely be with stipulations that the operation be limited in scope and not include any ground troops. Still, many in Congress are wary of getting involved in another international crisis. If the resolution fails, while the White House has stated that it does not need congressional authorization for the type of operation it has planned, Obama has not stated what he will do.