Democrat, Republican debate Foreign Policy
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 16:11
There are many foreign policy issues facing the United States right now. Europe is trying to get its financial troubles under control, there is going to be new leadership in China, poor Arab-Israeli relation, tension surrounding the Iranian nuclear program and the list goes on.
Yet there is one issue that the United States should act on immediately. That issue is working to stop the abuses President Bashar Al-Assad is committing against the people of Syria.
The situation in Syria is dire. The U.N. said more than 5,400 people were killed in Syria last year, and the number rises daily. In addition, 25,000 people are estimated to have sought refuge in neighboring countries and more than 70,000 are internally displaced.
The government is sending tanks into cities to quell unrest. The government has shelled cities with mortar fire.
NPR reported, "Wissam Tarif is an Arab world campaigner with Avaaz, an organization trying to smuggle medical supplies into places like Zabadani. He says the army's objective is simple: to bring enough hurt on the civilians in these cities that they will stop protesting and stop supporting the Free Syrian Army." The Syrian government is sieging towns to stop protests.
If action is not taken, history will categorize the Syrian uprising with Rwanda and other atrocities in which action was avoided.
The United States needs to lead an effort to stop the human rights abuses occurring. A lead from behind strategy implemented through a regional alliance, like the Libyan intervention, needs to be implemented.
The United States can push for action and contribute without making too much of a commitment.
The Arab League is active in working to oust Al-Assad and their plans could be the basis for action. Whatever the specific details would be, the United States would have to take a role in acting, even if it is a small role.
A call to action in Syria is not an overreach of power. The intervention in Libya shows an example of a successful human rights intervention by the global community.
The Libyan people recently celebrated the one year anniversary of their revolution. We should not decide on intervention based on criteria such as oil production, but instead intervene where extreme human rights abuses warrant it.
The United States has made some bad foreign policy decisions in the Middle East lately.
If the United States does not put more effort into stopping the crackdown in Syria, it will add another blunder to the list.
The United States was an early champion of human rights. If the United States wants to keep its tradition as an upholder of rights, it must act.
Even if you think that getting involved in Syria is a mistake, I find action in this circumstance better than inaction. As Kofi Annan said, "If one is going to err, one should err on the side of liberty and freedom."
Michael is a freshman majoring in human rights and political science with minors in Arabic and religious studies.
For more than a year now, protesters in Syria and other parts of the Middle East worked to overthrow oppressive governments, and have been met with fierce opposition.
The U.S. government intervened in Libya on behalf of the protesters, where the long serving dictator Moammar Gaddafi was using military force against them.
This has started a dangerous precedent, for while it seems as though overthrowing these dictators would be a smart move given the apparent democratic sentiment of some of the protesters, we could end up with more oppressive, less democratic dictators in place of these secular regimes like Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Overthrowing dictators may seem like an excellent idea, but in many cases, the devil we know is better than the devil we don't know.
We already saw this with Mubarak in Egypt, where in the first "democratic" elections after Mubarak was overthrown, radical Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood were able to secure a strong majority.
Mubarak was an ally of the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood most certainly are not.
What is going on in Syria is terrible. The human rights abuses are deplorable, and it would be great to have them stopped.
But just recently, evidence surfaced that Al Qaeda affiliates have joined forces with the Syrian protesters, and the protesters are now flying the flag of Al Qaeda.
To intervene in Syria, at least in the same way we did in Libya, would not be a very smart move if our major goal is to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
Israel would be put further in danger if Assad was overthrown and an Al Qaeda-affiliated government was installed in his place.
Stopping human rights abuses in the short term is almost certainly not worth creating a government that will in all likelihood be abusing human rights for many years.
So while the Syrian government is a supporter of terror and a horribly oppressive dictatorship, at least we know to what degree they support terror and just how oppressive they are.
But if these incredibly religious protesters are given a government of their own, right next to Israel, there is no telling what could happen, and that is not a desirable outcome.
Not all of the Arab Spring is bad, however.
When it first started, with the "Green" movement in Iran over the summer of 2009, it was clear that the protesters did have that democratic spirit that we assume is present in all the other Arab Spring protests.
And yet, this is the protest that Obama couldn't bring himself to support. He was chronically unable to come down on either side of that protest, and Ahmadinejad was able to steal another election there. He credits his "Cairo Speech" in May of 2009 for beginning the Arab Spring, but I'm beginning to wonder if he should instead be blamed, not credited, because this has been a huge mess.
Tucker is a sophomore majoring in political science.