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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