U.S. must deal with Syria

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

President Barack Obama is seeking Congressional approval of a military attack on Syria after the Syrian government launched a sarin gas attack in late August, according to Reuters. The chemical attack killed over 1,400 people, many of them civilians. The United States’ long history of involving itself in foreign affairs necessitates a response to the attack. The U.S. should involve itself in the Syrian conflict, but not through military force.

The American population is not at all convinced that a military attack is the solution to the Syrian issue, with only 36 percent of Americans in favor of such action, according to a recent Gallup Poll. The editorial board of The Seattle Times argues that the situation is both uncontrollable and unpredictable, and ultimately not the responsibility of Americans, who are tired of being at war despite the recent atrocities that the Syrian government has committed.

However, the Syrian government’s actions are unconscionable, and must be addressed. The recent chemical attacks are only part of the violent situation that Syria has faced during its current civil war, which has been going on for nearly 30 months. Two million refugees have been displaced to surrounding nations while 4.2 million people have been displaced internally — over half of whom are children, according to Human Rights Watch. The displacement of Syrian citizens is not the only problem spilling into surrounding nations: The instability of the country could easily spread throughout the region, according to Freedom House, which cited Turkey recently engaging Syrian forces across the border and Israel bombing a convoy on the outskirts of Damascus.

But what can be done about this situation, given the American public’s reluctance to commit military resources? Thankfully, intervention can come in forms other than bombs, and many organizations have suggestions as to how to aid Syria without direct military action. Human Rights Watch advises that the G-20, a forum for international cooperation on important global issues, make a priority of aiding refugees and stopping the flow of arms into the region. One of Syria’s biggest weapons suppliers is Russia, which is a member of the G-20. The G-20 can pressure Russia and Syria’s surrounding nations to stop dealing through trade sanctions specifically targeting arms deals. Freedom House suggests that the U.S. provide financial support to Syrian civil rights groups, in order to aid the development of democratic institutions. With this support, Syria could move toward stabilizing itself.

Of course, many call for justice, as well as aid. Sixty-four countries have urged the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, according to the Human Rights Watch.

The refugees are of great concern at this time, as they are among the people most damaged by the Syrian conflict. Aiding them and the countries that support them without resorting to military attacks could ease some of the region’s tension.