Staff editorial: Syria

Fiona Armstrong-Pavlik

Consensus of the West Side Story editorial board

Syria: when the country came up in the past, our minds didn’t initially jump to civil war and chemical weapons. Now it’s a different story.

In 2011, Syrian youth started to revolt against their large and demanding government, led by President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Assad was never elected president, and he inherited the position after his father passed away in 2011.

Syria’s opposing National Coalition, led by the young rebels, elected Amad Tomeh as their leader this month in efforts to oust al-Assad.

Last year, after the Syrian civil war began, President Obama was quoted saying, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Exactly one year later, al-Assad used chemical weapons to kill more than 1500 civilians in Syria.

The big questions are these: is this a message? If so, does the United States have the right to intervene?

Obama is saying yes to both.

As he tries to swoon Congress into agreements of invading Syria with Italian dinners held at the White House, it is clear what the general public is saying in response: NO.

It is not our responsibility to invade Syria, a country that has not made any threats upon our nation.

Unfortunately, the magnitude and reality of the situation puts us citizens in an uncomfortable place–between congress and the president. It seems that if public support of the invasion of Syria is so low, the idea should be out of the question. However, because Obama is in his last term and facing ridicule about being a lame duck president, he may think that he has to do something to defend his word against chemical warfare before his time in the Oval Office comes to a close.

Although John McCain was quoted last week saying that most republicans oppose intervening Syria because of their dislike for Obama, the public’s reason for opposing invasion is a little more supported: we’ve seen this happen before.

Syria is different than Iraq, sure. However, the frequency of our attacks on other countries is starting to get tiresome. Our country is still recovering from a decade of war. Sending air strikes to Syria is risky business because of the unknowns. Although we have experience with warfare, we don’t know what al-Assad and his followers have in store for us.

Not only have we seen war before, but we’ve also seen Congress and even the Executive branch shy away from public opinion a plethora of times. This time, however, it is clear what we prefer: to stay out as long as possible. Until there is a direct threat to the United States, we need to keep our noses out of what does not concern us.