To strike or not to strike?

To strike or not to strike?

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A refugee camp in Syrian territory near the border with Turkey. Syria's civil war has forced some two million people out of their country, while another four million have been made homeless in Syria.
A refugee camp in Syrian territory near the border with Turkey. Syria's civil war has forced some two million people out of their country, while another four million have been made homeless in Syria.
Photo: AP

The British government's motion for military intervention in Syria was rejected by Parliament last week. This shows that the country is still haunted by the decision to intervene in Iraq 10 years ago. Perhaps the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in that Gulf nation has created some doubts about the motives for foreign intervention.

The real question our world leaders have to deal with is this: what defines a humanitarian crisis? The answer has direct implications for what constitutes a legitimate cause for external intervention.

Over the past two and a half years, 100,000 Syrians have died in the country's civil war. However, what most stunned the world was the August 21 chemical weapons attack. It was reportedly the most lethal use of gas since Iraq's Saddam Hussein used it against thousands of Kurds in 1988.

US Secretary of State John Kerry says evidence shows that the Syrian government is behind the use of sarin gas on its own people - rebels and innocent civilians alike. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies all such allegations. So the blame game goes on. What really is at stake here is time. Day after day, more lives are put at risk and intervention becomes more controversial.

Here's my dilemma: is the use of chemical weapons a sound reason for foreign intervention? Is it really crossing a "red line" - as stated by US President Barack Obama? I can't help but think of the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. History certainly doesn't work in favour of a country that is acting as the world's policeman today.

On the other hand, do we use a death toll to decide whether it is appropriate to take military action? As soon as a certain number of people are killed, should UN or Nato forces be deployed?

While I agree that intervention could put an end to the atrocities taking place in Syria, it would be foolish to launch missile attacks.

It seems counter-productive to try to establish peace in Syria through blanket bombing. Not only would it increase the death toll, it would risk prolonging the civil war. Military forces should be sent in to protect rather than attack civilians in Syria.

It is easy to say that the international community should first seek solutions via diplomatic channels. We all know that Russia, Syria's closest ally, should join the talks, but this is not necessarily possible.

To strike or not to strike?

As we consider our responsibility to protect people halfway across the world, our leaders must try to work with, rather than alienate, the Assad regime. Respecting the state's authority may be the first step to securing co-operation between nations in this modern world.


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