(The Darkness Visible series)
In August of 2012 President Obama said before the world in no uncertain words that the United States would not tolerate Assad's regime crossing the "red line" by using chemical weapons. In the strongest words the President could afford, Obama told Assad's regime that the use of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles would have "serious consequences". The audience was supposed to recall Gaddafi and the US military's actions in Libya. This was Obama's moment to sound like a war hawk while seeking to be a dove.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”
~ President Barack Obama, 20th August 2012
Well today we know that Assad crossed that "red line" after dancing upon it and the bones of the dead beneath it. This was Assad's way of telling the West that he doesn't fear them. This was Assad's way of telling Obama that unlike Gaddafi, Assad will not be removed from power by any UN or NATO action. Assad showed his teeth when Obama attempted to back him into a corner.
With the use of sarin gas Assad showed the world that his military is only getting started in a long fight to maintain power over the people of Syria. While the world watches and cheers on the rebel forces, Assad still has plenty of resources to draw upon to win this fight. He has shown with the use of chemical weapons that he will utilize whatever weapons he needs to to win this war. And once the fight has ended, Assad's al-anfal campaign will begin.
"We need to expand the evidence we have, we need to make it reviewable, we need to have it corroborated," ~ Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary 4th June, 2013
While the White House drags their heels the forces of Assad's brutal regime continue to move chemical weapons about Syria in preparation for wider use. The intent to suppress unorganized units of the rebels while pinning down battle hardened opposition has proven to be useful to Assad's military. They have been able to hold their ground while the opposition has been able to only shift the line on one point just to lose another. All the while Assad has been receiving arms and goods from Iran, Russia, and China. Allowing the regime to hold out while the rebels beg for supplies from the West.
With every passing day the civilians trapped between the trenches are sacrificed to an ever shifting line in the sand. Obama's promise of action had shifted that line in their favor last year. Now it has been dragged back over the border as the Syrian people become refugees in their own country. For the lucky ones there is still the hope to cross the only permanent lines by fleeing the country for Turkey and Lebanon.
“These weapons are made to be used strictly and only in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.” ~ Jihad Makdissi, Foreign Ministry Spokesman.
Then there remains the threat that Syria issued in July of 2012 when Assad was beginning to realize that UN or NATO troops might intervene. It was at that time that Assad raised the stakes by declaring that his forces would use any and all chemical weapons against foreign soldiers and/or nations who interfered. This now (that we already know Syria has used chemicals) hints that Assad has something worse than sarin gas to use on outsiders. It also leaves one to wonder just why Assad went ahead and used sarin gas in the first place.
So we should therefore ask ourselves, us in the United States, if we want our troops exposed to a war where the other side has already used chemicals and promises to use them again. We must ask if we wish to sacrifice our blood and treasure to end the suffering of Syrian civilians trapped between two armies (or more). And just how much will we invest to end the bloodshed? Will we accept the cost of spilling blood to supposedly end the flow of innocent blood? Just how much more suffering can we stomach?
"Russia has been a key supporter of Assad, protecting his regime from the United Nations sanctions and providing it with weapons despite the two-year civil war in which more than 70,000 people have been killed." ~ CBS News
With the cold war supposedly dead the West finds itself face to face with a man that reminds many of Stalin reincarnated. Putin's Russia has supplied Assad with weapons that the unstable regime had previously only been able to drool over. Now the crazed president uses Russian munitions upon his own citizens, killing women and children rather intentionally. All of which has brought a weakened West to an awkward feeling of déjà vu (think Vietnam, Afghanistan, or even Korea).
If the United States is to overcome its reputation of making false promises and hollow threats it will be facing off with Russian made weapons and Soviet trained units. This would be a war where the UN and NATO forces would not necessarily be better armed than their prey. Instead Obama would be throwing American lives into the breach without knowing what the opposite side is willing to bring to the table.
So once again, should we be ready to join the fray?
For over two years I have listened to the loudest and most persistant voices here at home say that "it is sad what is happening to those Syrians, but... it's not our fight.". The irony to me is that most of the time these are the same people who uphold President Bush's decision to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. When there was the promise of gain from the sacrifice of others, these were the people who were ready to "liberate" an opponent. These were the brave warriors of "freedom". These were the ones who claimed the moral high ground while we, the underclass, sacrificed our brothers and sisters for their wars.
Now we are faced with a war to end the slaughtering of innocent civilians by a tyrannical dictator. For the first time in a generation we are presented with a good fight. And suddenly the West backs down with their tails between their legs. Where have the war hawks gone? Where did the moral high ground disappear to? Where is Uncle Sam's conscience now that the blood of innocence is upon our President's hands?
Promises of this magnitude can not be backed away from just because the other side has taken the opportunity to up the ante. When we tell a dictator that we will act we must do so. Any hesitation is complacency with the crimes committed by the enemy. Any motion that even hints that we are turning away from our word is a defeat before we ever begin. Barack Obama must be forced to stand up and be a man. He must be forced to uphold his promise to the people of Syria.
What if China and Iran back Russia and engulf the region in civil war? What if the West is being dragged into a proxy war? What if Syria is just the first domino to fall?
There will always be reasons to stand by while innocent lives are being destroyed. We will always have fears to face when we are presented with the right thing to do. If doing what is needed was easy then France would already be mobilizing. But the reality that Syria presents to the West is that when faced with massacres and the war crimes that Assad has given us we have no other option. This is where we prove that freedom is not free. And that no matter what, we will never surrender our belief that the liberty of others is always worth the risk... the fight... the suffering... and the blood we will surely spill.
Putin and Assad may have led us to this moment. Their desire to prove our weakness may very well be reason for the constant antagonism that Syria displays to the West. Yet in the end we have to live with the fact that a promise was made. We drew the line in the sand. And we can't let it be moved again.
(Note: not all sources listed)