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What is the Case for Syria?

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Adam Smith
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(Article changed on September 11, 2013 at 11:08)

21/8/2013 DISINFORMATION-WAR OR GAS-WAR IN SYRIA - information poison or poison gas?
21/8/2013 DISINFORMATION-WAR OR GAS-WAR IN SYRIA - information poison or poison gas?
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21/8/2013 DISINFORMATION-WAR OR GAS-WAR IN SYRIA - information poison or poison gas? by Imaginary Museum Projects: News Tableaus

21/8/2013 DISINFORMATION-WAR OR GAS-WAR IN SYRIA - information poison or poison gas? by Imaginary Museum Projects: News Tableaus
"You can't make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can't make peace without Syria." - Henry A. Kissinger


Well, it seems that Egypt's making war fine all by itself and I'll be surprised if Syria finds peace anytime soon.


I'm not gonna lie, my personal experience with the Middle East is pretty limited. I've never actually been there. The closest I've ever been would be Kashmir and Rajasthan in India. I got to meet a lot of very cool Muslims but I can't say it gave me a huge amount of insight into the larger conflicts occurring between and within the countries there. But who am I to let my ignorance get in the way of me spouting opinions?


Essentially, I'm having difficulty figuring out why US President Obama is so gun-ho to throw some Tomahawk missiles at Syria from his destroyers in the Mediterranean. As Syria has not threatened or attacked the US or any of its allies, this attack would make Obama a war criminal by the Nuremberg Standard if the UN Security Council does not sanction it. Not to say that Assad's forces haven't done some terrible things. They have. At least 100,000 people have been killed since the civil war broke out in 2011, most of them killed by the Syrian military. At least two million have fled and another four million are internally displaced.  


The sarin gas attack that occurred in Damascus on August 21st and killed as many as 1429 people is horrible for sure. No one is doubting that. However, Obama's desired response of shooting some missiles to assist the rebels and 'send a message' is a worrying one considering that Russia and China are quite opposed to any attack that has not been sanctioned by the UN. China seems mostly against it due to the damage it would do the world's economy and since it would drive up the price of oil.


Russia is more tightly linked with Syria as they do a lot of trade and the navel facility in Syria at Tartus is Russia's only Mediterranean port. Russia has threatened to send a missile shield into Syria if the US attacks without UN backing. It has also been made clear that Russia and China will veto any action from the UN Security Council. They learned from Libya that the West will not take their interests in the area seriously if allowed to militarily intervene.


Before attacking Syria and potentially starting a WWIII-style showdown with Russia and China becomes a viable option, it seems like two questions have to be answered. First, was it actually Assad's regime that was responsible for the gas attack? Second, is this an intelligent and effective response if it was?


For the first question, there are a few theories. One is that Assad, or rogue elements of his government, chose to use chemical weapons against a civilian location in the hopes of killing the opposing rebels hiding there. This is the main narrative being shouted by the US and agreed upon by the European Union even while they state that any aggression should wait for the United Nations inspectors report. The main problem with this one is motive. As Ed Husain of the Council of Foreign Relations had written, "Al Assad has no credible motivation to use these weapons at this stage, and in this phase of the conflict. He is not losing." It's hard to imagine why Assad would cross Obama's 'red line' regarding chemical weapons when he was winning, when UN inspectors were actually present in the country, and when doing so would involve the Americans.

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25 year-old Canadian student, currently attaining my masters in political science. Work with mentally disabled individuals for employment. Try to be politically involved. A card-carrying member of the provincial and federal green parties of Canada. (more...)
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