How to Figure Out in a Few Minutes What's Happening in Syria

FlickrIf we as a nation are talking too much about MILEY and not enough about SYRIA, I suspect it's because most of us don't really understand what's going on in Syria right now or why -- and we're too embarrassed to admit it.

Fortunately, my friends, there's help!

My Facebook friends all have been sharing one particular blog post on Syria -- and I finally read it over the weekend. It is brilliant. It explains in a nutshell what's happening in Syria and why it MIGHT be a good idea for the United States to intervene.

The post was written by Washington Post foreign affairs correspondent Max Fisher. In it, he covers 9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask.

It's important to note (this is the Washington Post, after all) that Fisher is obviously in favor of missile strikes. His rationale:

Both sides of any conflict, not to mention civilians everywhere, are better off if neither of them uses chemical weapons. But that requires believing that your opponent will never use them, no matter what. And the only way to do that, short of removing them from the planet entirely, is for everyone to just agree in advance to never use them and to really mean it. That becomes much harder if the norm is weakened because someone like Assad got away with it. It becomes a bit easier if everyone believes using chemical weapons will cost you a few inbound U.S. cruise missiles.

But Fisher also does a good job of explaining Syria's civil war, how it happened, and why there's no hope of it ending any time soon, no matter what the United States does or doesn't do.

It also explains Russia's involvement, as well as the reason why the US doesn't have United Nations approval for missile strikes on Syria.

More from The Stir: America May Strike Syria for Suffocating Those Kids With Sarin Gas ... But There's No Rush

Essentially, you can spend ten minutes reading this post and discourse knowledgeably on the subject at work or at your next dinner party. You can also explain it to your kids.

For a different point of view, conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation has a number of posts up about Syria. Middle East expert James Phillips says President Obama will have a tough job getting Congress to approve the missile strikes:

To gain congressional authorization, the President must clearly articulate U.S. national interests in Syria and explain how these interests will be advanced. The President today restated his determination to enforce international norms against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. But there are many norms being violated in Syria on a daily basis: the use of tanks, artillery, SCUD missiles, and warplanes against civilian targets, to name a few.

The President must convince Congress why enforcing his chemical weapons “red line” is so important to advancing U.S. national interests, rather than merely useful for enforcing “international norms”—to which much of the rest of the world appears to have turned a blind eye. Symbolic, feel-good military gambits will accomplish little.

The President also must convince Congress that he has a coherent long-term strategy that will be advanced by military action in Syria.

There's certainly a lot to think about here.

Now that you've read the background and facts, what do you think the United States should do about Syria? Is it better for us to stay out of it, or should we send a clear message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated?

 

Image via FreedomHouse/Flickr

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Aixa Bermudez

What proof does the US have that Assad's regime is using chemical weapons against civilians in Syria?

Elaine Cox

of course the un said in may that the rebels used sarin gas...and lots of intel and media are saying they might have done this..isnt hard to fathom...SINCE THEY ARE AL QAEDA!!!!....If we were gonna do something we should have done it 30 months ago when we had at least kinda american friendly rebels...now its mostly al qaeda.....they will not get the un cause russia will veto which means obama would have to strike without un approval...which first would make him a hypocrite after all his iraq talk back in the day..but he has already pretty much already gone hypocrite so whats one more thing and second it would make him in violation of international law since america hasnt been attacked...just using gas isnt enough to justify bombing someone..dont blame me..blame the un charter

Elaine Cox

“Unfortunately, the president’s draft (authorization) states a violation of international law in every line,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a University of Notre Dame law professor. “Resort to military force is not permitted to punish the use of banned weapons; to address arms proliferation, or to respond to vague threats to the United States.”
National self-defense or actions explicitly authorized by the United Nations’ Security Council are the only two kinds of military action acceptable under international law, O’Connell explained.

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I vote to blow them off the planet. Unfortunately that's not realistic with Israel bring do close. I also think air strikes will cause a lot of home grown terrorists to act up. We should leave Middle East alone and worry about china and Korea. Give them some time and they will take us off the planet if we don't do something about it. Not to me took they're putting a hole in the ozone layer.

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nonmember avatar Orris

America needs to do something. This is one of the very few times that I agree with President Obama. The whole inmternational community, not just the US, needs to make a clear statement; that the use of WMD'S will not be tollerated. Make no mistake Iran is paying close attention to how the world handles this! What would be differece between this with Syria, and Iran if they decieded to drop a nuke on Israel, witch they have threatened to wipe them of the face of the Earth; several times!

nonmember avatar Orris

I've read a lot of comments about Internantional Law; witch I freely admitt I know very little about, save this, the acts of genecied (forgive any misspelling) is a clear violation of International Law. Wich is the very thing that we have going on in Syria. There is no good course. However the use of WMD'S can not be tollerated and needs to be handled agressively.

nonmember avatar Grandma

Interfering in the Syrian civil war may ignite a spark that could:
1. spark retaliation on US soil
2. spark WWIII putting all our children and families at risk

kryst... krystaldawn_21

I think that maybe if it isn't their government that used it we should go there and help their government find out who did it and fight who did it. So pretty much the first step would be to have a meeting between our president or whoever with Assad so they can talk about the appropriate steps in handling the chemical weapons problem.

nonmember avatar MW

I have to agree with Grandma, think that we should stay out of Syria. Why should we help Al Qaeda in any way shape or form. Al Qaeda is Al Qaeda no matter where they are geographically. They have the same agenda. Why would our forces want to help them anyways? Any soldier/civilian that has ever lost someone, been wounded, or fought against Al Qaeda would have some reservations about helping them now. Why should we send them troops, weapons, and money when they'll just use them against us later. Al Qaeda are Al Qaeda no matter the geographical location they have the same agenda.

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