There’s an old colloquialism in politics that states it is best to release bad news on a Friday. On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the American public and the international community at large on the Syrian issue. In case you missed it, U.S. intelligence is reporting that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in August to kill approximately 1,400 Syrians in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The use of chemical weapons clearly violates President Obama’s line in the sand against the use of such weapons, leading the international community to wonder whether the United States will follow through on its threat of military action against the Assad regime.
John Kerry in his remarks on Friday addressed three major reasons the United States should intervene:
1. The United States is good on its word. President Obama’s remarks last year regarding a “red line” against chemical weapons seem pretty clear, given that intelligence indicates the use of nerve gas against Syrian rebels. While the President has tried to moderate his red line remarks, the United States also wants to be sure its words carry weight into the future. This is a very clear example of how politics can be brutal when consequences are made too clear; some Americans worry that the U.S. is being forced to act.
2. Chemical weapons endanger the entire international community. Sec. Kerry spoke at length about the inconceivable cruelty of the Assad regime against Syrians, noting that the chemical weapons killed 1,429 Syrians, and of those 1,429, at least 426 children. The implication here is that the Assad regime is inhumane and irrational and therefore must be removed before the regime’s chemical weapons are used again, or before the chemical weapons get into even worse hands.
3. The United States is uniquely suited to protecting human rights. Because of American Exceptionalism at its finest, not only do some Americans feel that it is our duty to root out human rights violations when presented with them, but Syrians and other members of the international community believe similarly. Tamer Barazi, a Syrian American interviewed by ABC said, "We want any kind of action. The world has stood silently and it's been too long. Something needs to be done.” John Kerry, echoing this sentiment, attempted to convince a war-weary nation that action is needed in Syria by explaining that war fatigue “…does not absolve us of our responsibility."
Whether or not these reasons will sufficiently sway Americans into agreeing that military action is necessary remains to be seen. The situation in Syria will not resolve itself overnight, and the United States is at an important crossroads of choosing to intervene or to watch a civil war from the sidelines.