Americans should not neglect the Syrian conflict

“Never again!” is the cry heard around the world — two words that recall both the fight against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust and a struggle for equality that continues today.

The phrase also serves as a reminder of the paramount importance of taking action rather than turning a blind eye to mass murder.

Unfortunately, the current civil war in Syria is proof that the brutal murder of citizens by a nation’s leader can still happen today. And for some reason, the world seems to have forgotten about it. So we sit idly by, hoping that something will change without our active involvement.

For several months, Syria was a hot-button topic for the news media, from breaking updates to a scandal over the firing of a journalist who profiled Syria’s first lady Asma al-Assad in Vogue. The news pointed to how the Arab Spring would help to finally rid the country of President Bashar al-Assad’s reign of violence.

Except it didn’t. Even though the Arab Spring had its share of martyrdoms and violence, at certain points during this period the president — some would say dictator — seemed prepared to step down after years of shady police dealings, murders and oligarchic rule.

But it appears as if al-Assad is here to stay.

The 18-month-old Syrian conflict has turned from an uprising into a full-on massacre on both sides. In the month of August alone, an estimated 5,000 Syrians died, and the majority of them civilians. Even more shocking, more than 100,000 refugees left Syria in August — a number that accounts for more than 40 percent of all Syrian refugees since the conflict began — according to CBS. This sharp increase in refugees, which doesn’t even include the tens of thousands of refugees who have not registered and those still in Syria who need aid, still underscores just how urgent the Syrian crisis has become.

It also adds urgency to the need for other countries to get involved. Russia and Iran have already joined in to defend al-Assad, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been struggling to help the opposition force. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has just stuck with threats: He declared that the United States would intervene with military force if Syria showed signs of mobilizing “unconventional weapons” (previous reports had suggested al-Assad could have chemical or biological weaponry).

Three weeks have passed since that comment. Nothing seems to have changed, including the brutal war.

But to call this a war is naive. A war is a fight between two different sides; a war involves soldiers. A war is not fighting against your brother; a war is not bombing your countrymen’s homes while they lie in bed.

This is calculated murder, plain and simple.

And we will probably never join the rebels to rid them of their dictator. Obama has learned well from his predecessor just how costly war can be. Which is a shame, considering the fact that the United States could actually make a difference.

Finding a way into the country to give food or water relief might be next to impossible. We, however, are a military superpower, and if we decided to aid the rebels on a military front, this war could end more quickly than it would otherwise.

As Americans, it’s important that we fight for humanity, and not just when the issue directly affects us. Sometimes, you have to do what’s best for all people, a mission al-Assad has clearly shown his disdain for.

Students should do what they can to stimulate debate with each other, with professors, with friends and family to open up a wider conversation about possible solutions and ways the government can take action. The more students talk about Syria, the more people will realize that the United States has a chance to help save lives and that we must urge the government to do so.

For once, let’s try to prevent murder instead of just witnessing it.


Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in film critical studies.

3 replies
  1. Jack
    Jack says:

    Why should we try to prevent murders in Syria when we have more than enough domestic problems already? Chicago’s South Side is turning into a warzone, we’ve got a drug war spilling over the southern border, and our economy is struggling. Especially after the murder of our ambassador last night, it’s time to stop trying to “save” the Middle East and focus on our domestic problems.

  2. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    I have to agree with commenter “Tomy Trojan.” We have no reasonable way to intervene successfully in Syria, not with troops and not with aid. If we used the US military, we would find ourselves in another pointless, but bloody and punishing conflict like in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once again, American military personnel would bleed, die and be hideously maimed with no good outcome possible. We might succeed in toppling Assad if we commit our military forces, but consider the cost! We toppled Hussein, perhaps helping the Iraqi nation. Or perhaps not. This remains to be seen. Same in Afghanistan.

    Ship medical supplies, food, humanitarian aid to Syria, then? Why? The Saudis are fabulously wealthy and are Sunnis, like the Syrians. This is in their backyard. Let them provide this support. They certainly provide enough support to worldwide terrorists. And we cannot support our own tens of millions of poor.

    Sheridan Watson writes “As Americans, it’s important that we fight for humanity, and not just when the issue directly affects us…sometimes, you have to do what’s best for all people,” A noble sentiment. Was this true in Iraq? Afghanistan? Did we help much? And at what cost to Americans? How about Vietnam, 40 years ago? We lost 55,000 troops, untold hundreds of billions of dollars and split our nation into factions. About two million Vietnamese died, and then the country fell to Communism anyway. Did we help?

    Sometime we cannot help, and rather than suffer, bleed, die and take the other terrible losses, it is best to stay out of a conflict. We must pick our battles and limit them to supporting loyal allies and to those wars that can be won without disproportionate loss of American lives and treasure.

  3. Tomy Trojan
    Tomy Trojan says:

    Hi Sheridan, this is a horrendous article and you are shining example of how ignorant some young Americans are regarding international affairs. You suggest that “maybe if we decided to aid the rebels” the war would end more quickly. Are you not aware of the fact that the CIA has been openly arming and funding the rebels for the past year, and that many of these rebels also happen to be Al-qaeda members who want to set up an Islamic dictatorship? This information is readily available from sources like the Washington Post, NY Times, Reuters, take your pick.

    Yes Assad is a horrible horrible man, but you are terribly misinformed and I can’t believe an editor let this get lazy propaganda piece get published. I highly suggest you stick to writing about film, unless you are somewhat attractive and are looking to work for FOX/CNN/MSNBC in which case you are on the right track.

    A concerned student

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