A Special Forces soldier (not the author)
Ever since President Obama said the U.S. "should" strike against the Assad regime following a deadly chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, I've been hearing from military members who have shared their views on possible U.S. involvement in the two-year-old civil war.
As military members, they will certainly carry out whatever order is given, but as I've seen and reported, they can also harbor strong opinions on the matter, especially after combat duty in the Middle East. The following is one such email I received, which came from an active-duty Army officer who has served in special operations and been on multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
While he expresses reluctance to get involved in another war, he concludes that at least this time — as opposed to in Iraq — he would understand why America is getting involved.
Syria has been the source of worldwide attention since March of 2011. The nation has been embroiled in civil war. Opposition groups and the current regime have been trading blows for the past two years. Often hiding in the middle pages of most popular news publications, the antics of this failed state have moved to page one as the violent in-fighting has reached a fever pitch. The main proponents of this would-be revolution are a potpourri of current regime dissidents, freedom fighters, opportunists, and Syrian rebels who look suspiciously like Al-Qaeda regulars. The opposition leadership has labeled itself the Syrian National Coalition and sits comfortably in Doha, Qatar.
Meanwhile the civil war has quickly degraded into sectarian violence and disproportionate retribution at the hands of the current Syrian regime.
The global community has maintained a passive role via the United Nations in the form of humanitarian aid. Eyebrows were raised in the past at the suspected usage of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. Those reports were largely unsubstantiated, or at a minimum ignored by nations otherwise concerned with the consumption of venti lattes and commercial free television.
Recently, however, Syria renewed its efforts to violate worldwide social norms by using nerve agent in an attack that claimed the lives of nearly 1500 people, to include women and children. Unlike past attacks, this “massive use of chemical agents” garnered the attention of the global community. Soccer moms and vegans the world over were unable to ignore the grotesque pictures of dead children and teenage boys caught in the death throes caused by sarin gas.
With the nation’s sense of civic responsibility reinvigorated by the fantastic imagery littering the media and YouTube, we find ourselves once again posed with a familiar question: Should we invade yet another Middle Eastern nation?
As a veteran of the Iraq War, I would remind the teeming masses that we invaded Iraq for much less. The same legislators that cried for blood in 2003, now sit silent as their constituencies grumble about the economy. So why the paradigm shift? We invaded Iraq under the doctrine of preemption, suspecting that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction, therein posing an immediate threat to the United States. It was only in hindsight we saw that those claims were largely inflated, and in most cases fabricated completely.
Fast forward to Syria, which is actually in possession of weapons of mass destruction and willing to use them on its own people. As for Al Qaeda, Syrian rebels have terrorist ties that would raise the cockles of Osama bin Laden himself. So what gives?
Maybe the United States has grown tired of war after nearly 12 years of protracted conflict. Were the images of two smoking towers still too fresh in our collective minds when we were driven to chant ravenously for war when George W. came calling? It’s hard to say.
This much is true however: I went to Iraq three separate times. Each time I endured countless hardships and lost good friends. Each time I was acutely aware that the reasons behind my frequent visits to Babylon were without concrete evidence. My president, my legislators, and my country were all content to let me return time and time again for motives that even now seem vague at best.
I can’t say I support sending troops to Syria. This is the longest the nation has ever been at war with an all-volunteer military. Our servicemembers are weary, our economy is stretched, and our tolerance for flag-draped coffins has been exhausted. Occupying yet another Middle Eastern country might not be the answer.
However, our commander-in-chief drew a line in the sand, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stands firmly on the wrong side. If the United Nations refuses to act, then we must take unilateral action. Standing by idly while cruel dictators systematically destroy innocent people with poisonous gas has never been an American pastime, quite the opposite. Hopefully, we send a bouquet of cruise missiles and call it a day, but if they put boots on the ground, at least this time I’ll know why.
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