Back in early September, President Obama--in essence, the leader of the Free World--began pushing for American military intervention in battle-scarred, blood-soaked Syria. This was, of course, merely two months ago, but, to most Americans, this push seems like ancient history. Obama's reasoning for the pursuit of military intervention was sound. After all, as The Huffington Post reported on September 1, the death toll from the civil war exceeded 110,000 people. Moreover, it was becoming abundantly clear that the repressive Syrian regime possessed (and was using) deadly chemical weapons. As The Washington Post reported fifteen days later, "the country may have up to 1,100 tons of these types of chemical weapons," including blister agents, nerve agents, and sarin. Those were two very good reasons for attempting to staunch a dire conflict in a politically explosive region.
President Obama, however, received a chilly response from Republicans, many fellow Democrats, and the American people as a whole, who simply wished to stay out of it. Republicans especially detested the President's plans. Interestingly, Obama possessed ample proof that Syria was utilizing chemical weapons. Still, they were hostile to his points of view. His predecessor, though, wished to wage a war in Iraq based merely on rumors that Saddam Hussein possessed these weapons, and virtually all Republicans gleefully went along with George W. Bush's plans. (Indeed, no such weapons were ever discovered there).
Because of this chilly response, Obama, being a pragmatist in the mold of Bill Clinton, shelved his desires for military intervention in the Middle Eastern state. Besides, domestic issues--like the failed Obamacare rollout and the disastrous government shutdown--would soon consume all of his time. Furthermore, when the U.S. President walked away from the conflict, the rest of the world did, too, leaving the Syrian state utterly alone. Many people have now forgotten about it. After all, as they say, "Out of sight, out of mind."
However, the conflict hasn't dissipated. According to the November 1 edition of Here and Now, an additional 10,000 lives have been lost since early September. The radio program also reported that many sections of Damascus now resemble a "wasteland," where "You can go to neighborhoods that look like earthquake zones where not a single building, house or a shop has been left without gaping holes, pockmarked with bullet holes, completely blackened, roofs torn off and not a single person to be found." The biggest victims of the war appear to be civilians. Many female residents report that they haven't eaten bread in nine months. Instead, they are eating grass and leaves just to stay alive. International agencies have attempted to help these desperate civilians by shipping in modest amounts of food and medical supplies, but most of this much-needed aid is being taken by the rebels. Even worse, the war has allowed polio to re-emerge with a vengeance in the struggling state. Thus, Syria has slipped even further into human rights catastrophe. Meanwhile, the world yawns.
Obviously, these aren't black-and-white issues. It's reasonable that most Americans don't want to go to war yet again. Since 1941, America has been at war with near-constancy. In the 1940's, of course, it was WWII. In the early 1950's, it was the Korean War. American involvement in Vietnam began around 1955, and it didn't end until about thirty years later. In the 1980's, the country undertook much smaller military excursions (but still exhausting, costly ones) in Grenada, Lebanon, and Panama. In the 1990's, there was the first Iraqi War. Since the onset of the new millennium, the U.S. has been engaged in two wars. The primary legacies of these numerous conflicts have been the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of grievous wounds, shattered emotional states, heartbroken mothers, grief-stricken fathers, astronomical financial costs, and drained resources. Americans are tired of war, and understandably so. The same can be said for America's allies. If they don't wish to help Syria, then those views should be respected.
Still, Syrian civilians are perishing at exponential rates. Is the world simply to look away? Back in the mid-1990's, just as the U.S. was slipping back into normalcy, the world began hearing awful rumors about genocide coming from an obscure African nation called Rwanda. The world largely looked away, thus facilitating the murders of up to 1 million people. Today, the world remembers this genocide--and its own inaction--with shame. Twenty years from now, will it remember the Syrian conflict with this same sense of shame?