The alledged use of chemical weapons by President Assad of Syria, upon his own people, has once again, brought to the surface the issue of what role should the United States of America have in the world, today.
It has been nearly a century since the world powers of that day established laws that outlawed the use of chemical weapons.
The world now faces the issue of what to do about the fact that chemical weapons were recently used in Syria that brought about the death of innocent civilians, including women and children. One could not help but be affected by the grissly deaths that were encapsulated in the pictures of those who were killed.
If the evidence is to be believed, what responsibility does the world and the United States have regarding the enforcement of international law?
In a case of strange political bedfellows, the libertarian wing of the Republican Party and the left wing of the Democratic Party seem to be united in their opposition to the use of any force against the perpetrators of the atrocities that have occurred during the Civil War that is currently under way in Syria.
It is more than understandable that the American people are war weary, weary of the human costs and financial costs that come with being a world leader. For years, our men and women have been called upon, time after time to sacrifice for what our men and women in the military have believed to be for the greater good.
We have been lied to in the past and it is only natural that the American people are skeptical of what we are being told regarding Syria.
The danger that lurks during these dangerous times is that we may revert back to our past behavior as a nation and become isolationist and shirk our responsibilities as a world leader.
Our aversion to foreign entanglements started from the days of George Washington’s ‘Farewell Address’. He famously stated,”It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliaces with any portion of the foreign world.” He added,”we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”
A great ocean separated the United States from the controversies and wars that engulfed Europe for a good part of our history until the early years of the 20th Century, when we belatedly became involved in World War I.
Except for brief encounters with the world during President Teddy Roosevelt’s days and during World War I, we pretty much stayed isolated from foreigh entanglements throughout our history until the day came when the world’s problems thrust themselves upon our shores, when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Even during the 1930’s the forces of isolationism were so strong that in spite of Japan’s attack on Manchuria in 1931, and the clear threat’s to the world’s security during the 30’s Congress passed the Neutrality Act which pretty much tied the hands of President Franklin Roosevelt.
World War II changed everything. The fate of civilization was on the line as the Axis powers sought to conquer the world. The dawning of the nuclear age and the overwhelming deaths of millions during World War II, including the atrocities that occurred, made it impossible for the United States to stay aloof and isolated from the world.
The victors, especially, the United States and Great Britain, sought to prevent what happened during the days leading up to the war from ever happening again. Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt felt the responsibility of maitaining the peace, keenly.
The lessons learned from that war and especially Hitler’s conquest of countries as the world sat back and did nothing, helped create the security system that we have today. NATO and the United Nations were both, created with the hope that peace could be established through collective security.
The United States became a world power. Our lives were forever changed by the changed circumstances.The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union continued the crisis mentality between the two countries until the fall and collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989.
Today, we are still trying to adjust to what are our responsibilities as THE world power. I believe our leadership role is both a curse and a blessing. We may wish to run and hide but the world is a dangerous place.
The United Nations on occasion has been a disappointment primarily because of the veto power that a few nations have in the Security Council. When the interests of the major powers is not involved the United Nations has been successful in impacting conflicts.
We have not seen another country attack another successfully without the United Nations helping to put a stop to such events. The exception being when the United States has attacked a nation without United Nations approval such as our attack on Iraq under President George W. Bush.
The use of genocide by countries upon their own people has been the glaring failure of the world community, as they have failed to put a stop to genocide in many cases.
The killing fields of Cambodia, to the tribal killings in Ruanda, our history is replete with examples of when the world sat back and did nothing.
Did we learn nothing from the atrocities that occurred under Hitler and Tojo?
Serbians of recent history committed acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and it took the world a long time before they interceded and put a stop to the killings.
Now, Syria, presents the world with a problem. One lesson of the war in Vietnam was to never get involved in a civil war.
The Spanish Civil War gives us an example of the evil consequences of what happens when other countries choose sides in another country’s civil war.
I am sure that Americans would not have been happy if the South would have been successful in their attempt to gain the aid and assistance from England.
For humanitarian reasons, though the world and if need be just the United States and France needs to do something.
The world did nothing when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds in his own country.
My view is that the world community has to put a stop to genocide. It is a crime punishable by death. Those leaders who perform genocide on their own people should be arrested and put on trial for murder.
What message do we give to tyrants and murderers who commit these barbarous acts if we do nothing?
Although we may be damn tired of being the ones to take a leadership role, let us not deny two facts, one, if we don’t do it, it won’t happen and secondly, someone has to do it or history will repeat itself.
We should stand together in spite of our reluctance to do the right thing and have a limited strike on Assad if there is credible evidence that the 13 or 14 incidences of the use of chemical weapons is or has been Assad’s responsibility.
We need to be the voice for the voiceless, those who are innocent civilians who are murdered through the use of chemical weapons. If the law is not enforced it becomes meaningless.
Let us deny the impulse to do nothing. A new isolationist era may ensue if we do not acknowledge our duty and responsibility as human beings to do justice for those who have no recourse.
Isolationism will only lead to the repeating of history, where war becomes a constant, and atrocities the norm.
Not getting involved in foreign nation affairs was a desirable goal for many of our founding fathers. It was almost an achievable goal then, however, in the interconnected world we live in it is next to impossible. We should not try to impose our ideologies on other nations. The United Nations was formed for the purpose of settling disputes and to protect.
Ideally the United Nations is the place where disputes should be resolved through the collective efforts of the nations of the world. Sadly, the veto power of a few nations in the Security Council has given the United Nations a limited ability to deal with international problems when the self interest of one of the 5 originals powers of the Security Council is involved. My hope is that some day we can reform the UN and wars will become outdated and genocide prohibited.