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Syria

The dynamite box of Syria has exploded, and its ashes are falling on President Obama’s desk. With the clamor of newspapers and human rights zealots ringing in his ears, the President must face the barbed question: will he intervene in the Syrian conflict? By the evidence found at the crossroads of history and foreign policy, there is no doubt that the United States must avoid at all costs intervention in Syria.
Before we even engage with Syria, there are two items we can take away from it: first, that there is no benefit associated with intervention; and that the United States must face its foreign policy identity crisis now.
The Syrian strife is nothing unique in the history of human affairs. The issue is not as much Syria as it is the American approach to conflicts that violate our assumed values- values like Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s four freedoms that he outlined in 1941: freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear. But spreading freedom, democracy, and apple pie doesn’t warrant interference into every rebellion that emerges. Syria and its neighbors have managed their turbulences for centuries before the idea of America even germinated. Interventionist policy may have worked with 1920s Progressivism in fledgling Latin America. But in the 21st-century, if we keep imposing ourselves everywhere conceivable, President Obama might as well declare himself supreme overlord of planet earth.
But let’s say America does decide to intervene on the side of the rebels in Syria- we supply armaments and munitions, and eventually Bashar Al-Assad is driven from power. While people will cheer the humanitarian success, the humane ideal is a façade of foreign policy-which, frankly, is a self-serving business. Before Nation X intervenes in the affairs of Nation Y, it must ask: what are the economic, political, and diplomatic benefits? In the case of the Syria, there are none. We must recognize that this is not a conventional struggle of two armies facing off. This is a destructive regime exchanging blows with indelible pockets of resistance. From a military standpoint, if we cannot gauge their strength and numbers, how can we entrust them with crippling weapons? To complicate matters even further, many of these groups are terrorist organizations, like the Al-Nusrah Front. The Syrian battlefield is a dark jungle, shot through with corruption, terror, and fickle alliances- and in which there is no place for a foreign army. Yes, Assad may be gone, but then we are stuck with a rebel coalition. A similar problem is unfolding in Egypt: the rebel forces are hopelessly clueless on how to run a country. They can’t even trust their handpicked president. And what do we know about Syria? The facts and numbers are straight, but we cannot even begin to unravel the enigmas and mysteries of another culture, thousands of years in the making. What are their notions of leadership, power, the role of government, and the role of the common man? While we may be united against a common foe, the Syrian people will ultimately reject us like virus in a host. Lost in translation, there is no hope for such disparate people to ever connect.

But in our stubbornness, we will continue to throw ourselves at the brick wall, determined to make this desert country USA 2.0. That’s how we’ve done foreign policy, and that’s how we will continue to do foreign policy. Yet this is the ultimate juncture, at which we must reevaluate our diplomatic strategy, realizing that the United States is not the center of the universe. We have to consider not only the benefits of winning a war, but also the long-term consequences of planting ourselves in a foreign country. Indeed, Syria must find its own footing as a peoples and as a nation, in agreement with their cultural values and with their past.




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