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Should the U.S. take Military Action in Syria?
Syria, a country in the Middle East bordering Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon has experienced growing civil unrest since 2011. The current government, led by Bashar al-Assad, has responded with violence and human rights abuses. In September 2013 the United Nations (UN) (United Nations, 2013) confirmed chemical weapons were used against civilians in Damascus on August 21st. These actions have generated an outcry for intervention.
Arguments
Some believe taking action is the only way to stop the killing of civilians and end human rights abuses perpetrated by the military. These pro-interventionists conclude Assad continues his oppressive actions because he doesn’t believe anyone will take action to stop him.
Assaults on Syrian civilians are documented by many sources. Since January 2011 it is estimated over 100,000 citizens protesting against the Assad regime have been killed by military forces (Table, 2013). A report commissioned by the UN in June 2013 estimated 5,000 were killed each month since July 2012. This number exceeds reported deaths in Iraq at the height of war in 2007.
In a September 2011 report many atrocities against children were documented. Over a hundred children were killed in connection with protests, many others reported injured. A group of children in the town of Dara’a, as young as 8, were taken into custody in connection with anti-government graffiti on a schoolhouse wall. These children were still unaccounted for at the time of the report. Other children were reportedly subjected to torture and rape while in custody (United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013).
May 19, 2011 in a Middle East policy speech President Obama recommended the Assad regime adopt democratic principles and embrace the changes his people were calling for or “get out of the way” (Gollust, 2011). The Arab League called for Assad to step down and hand over control in January 2012 (Hassan & Zavis, 2012). On December 2, 2012 President Obama delivered the following warning to the Assad regime.
“Today, I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command [that] the world is watching," he said. "The use of chemical weapons is, and would be, totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there where be consequences, and you will be held accountable.” (Marshall, 2012
Three months later, in March 2013 (Fielding-Smith, 2013) and again in August 2013, chemical weapons were used against civilians. If Assad has any intention of stepping down it is not represented by these actions which suggest the threat of international response is not a deterrent.
It is unrealistic to argue for military intervention as a means to stop oppressive practices by a ruling force. Like pushing a dog in a corner, aggression fuels aggression. If the regime condones brutal practices to intimidate and gain information from civilians, it follows their response to threats to their existence will require more restrictions and oppression to maintain control.
Lack of cohesion between rebel opposition factions is a concern of those arguing against intervention. United loosely with the objective of overthrowing Assad’s military forces they have different ideals and perspectives on long term goals for Syria. Given access to weapons and training, rebel groups may turn against each other creating another protracted engagement.
Another argument supporting intervention proposes bringing down the Assad regime could weaken Russian and Iranian control in the region, giving the United States strategic advantage.
The Syrian Army is supported by Iran, Russia and China (Panetta, 2012). If military intervention successfully removed the current regime from power, the results could further destabilize the region. The history of the area and tenuous relationships of the parties involved will contribute to both issues: the difficulty of rebuilding the country and guaranteeing cooperation with the United States.
After the First World War, France and Britain divided the area currently defined as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Administrated by the French, separate states were created in Syria in 1922 aligned by religious, ethnic and regional affiliation. The majority of the population, Sunnis, controlled the central region and major cities like Damascus. Alawis and Druze, minority groups, ruled the coastal region and southern areas. This division remains today (Syria, 2013).
When the French needed military support to respond to a Sunni rebellion, Alawi were recruited into service to lead the forces (Middle East, 2013). Although the Alawi were a minority in the region, integrating them into leadership roles in the military gave them access to powerful positions and advantage when Syria was granted independence in 1946 (Syria, 2013).
Alawi tribal member and military leader, Hafez al-Assad, came to power in Syria in 1970. Bashar took over after his father’s death in 2000. Although some posts in the regime were given to Sunnis, military, intelligence and primary political appointments are held by Alawi. Alawi people represent 12% of the Syrian population (Nisan, 2005), Sunni 75% (Royle, 2011).
Opposition forces reflect the complex composition of groups throughout Syria. These groups developed from grass roots associations responding to the Syrian military’s aggressive reaction against peaceful protestors. The largest opposition force in Syria, The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is led by Riyad al-Assad a former colonel in the Syrian Air Force. FSA command is based in southern Turkey in a refugee camp established for exiled military personnel and their families (Inside the free syrian army, 2012). Leadership of the FSA is composed mostly of Sunni defected from the middle ranks of Assad’s military (Ziadeh, Hadar, Katz, Heydermann, 2012).
Other opposition forces spread over Syria have formed two groups. The Syrian Liberation front (SLF), formed in September 2012, and is a coalition of 20 or more Islamic groups. SLF operates outside the FSA owing to disapproval of FSA’s leadership residing outside Syria. The Syrian Islamic Front (SIF) formed later and is made up of Islamic groups following more dogmatic ideology proposing development of a state formed around theocratic ideals (O’Bagy, 2013).
Identifying the need to coordinate efforts, attempts have been made by the rebel groups to create an umbrella organization. The Supreme Military Command (SMC) is the most recent adaptation, formed in December 2012 after over 260 commanders of rebel groups met in Turkey. Security officials from Jordan, the United States and Britain attended as well as officials from other countries (O’Bagy, 2013).
One of the objectives for the creation of the SMC was to combine resources, create legitimacy and solicit outside support. They are significantly outgunned against the Syrian army’s weaponry supplied by Russia and China. One issue providing an advantage to the rebels is lack of support in the military for use of air strikes. Most of the pilots in the Syrian air force are Sunni and there are concerns of futher defection if ordered to take action against civilians (Inside the free, 2012).
The SMC may have unified many of the rebel groups but radical jihadists continue to operate independently and remain a threat to stabilization (O’Bagy, 2013). Illustrating the weak affiliation are events like the assassination of Kamal Hamami, a member of the SMC, by a rival rebel group in July 2013. The group claiming responsibility, Jabhat al-Nusra, declared their allegiance to current al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri (Morris & DeYoung, 2013). Although the SMC proposes to be in position to provide stability in the aftermath of a war, there are concerns of violence continuing as groups opposed to marginalization of radical principles seek to gain control. US support of the SMC does not guarantee access to control in the region.
Engaging in military action to overcome the Assad regime with the objective of installing a government allied with the United States is not supported by the American people and the financial cost to the country unwarranted.
A poll conducted in September found that 69 percent of the people responding were opposed to the US conducting a military strike (Landler & Thee-Brennan, 2013). People are war weary and question whether the Obama administration has clear objectives for getting involved. If polls of US citizens were the deciding factor, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in 2003 when polls revealed 88 percent of the population were opposed (People poll, 2002).
The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined total between 4 and 6 trillion dollars. These figures include long term care for disabled military personnel and interest on the accumulated debt representing 20% of the national debt accrued since 2001. This comes to an investment of approximately $75,000 for every US household. However insensitive it may sound in consideration of human rights violations, accumulating more debt without significant benefits is a reasonable argument (Clement, 2013).
Military intervention has not been legally authorized by either the United Nations or the US Congress. The only legal doctrine maintaining international relations is the United Nations Charter. Article 2 of the UN Charter requires countries to resolve conflicts peacefully and prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”. The only justification for use of force is in self-defense or when approved by the UN Security Council. The Security Council is comprised of 15 members, five permanent with veto power and ten non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms.
Three draft resolutions on Syria proposed to the Security Council have been vetoed by Russia and China.
• October 4, 2011 - S/2011/612 demands Syrian government “cease the use of force against civilians;… an inclusive Syrian-led political process…. aimed at addressing legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s population…..all States to exercise vigilance and restraint over the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Syria of arms and related material” (United Nations, 2011)
• February 4, 2012 – S/2012/77 demands Syrian government “cease all violence and protect its population; release all persons retained; …an inclusive Syrian-led political process…allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance” (United Nations, 2012 February)
• July 19, 2012 – S/2012/538 demands Syrian government “cease all violence”; proposed a six-point transition plan to “meet the aspirations of the Syrian people” (United Nations, 2012 July)
None of these resolutions contained language authorizing military intervention. It is unlikely any proposals of engagement will pass the Security Council. Without the support of Russia and China, military assistance to Syrian rebels by the United States may seriously damage relationships in the future.

Conclusion
Nothing presented justifies getting involved in this civil war. There are no vital interests at stake, no direct threat against US forces or allies. Although highly criticized, the United Nations Charter remains the only standard for actions between independent States globally. The most persuasive argument is the discussion of factionalized groups and the implication for long term commitment for the resources of the United States by getting involved. The country can’t sustain the cost of another war and there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. The atrocities perpetrated against the people of Syria are reprehensible and working with the global community to provide assistance without using force is the most constructive use of US resources.

References
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Clement, S. (2013, Sep 04). Poll: 60 percent in US oppose strike on syria. Journal – Gazette. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1429086747?accountid=458
Fielding-Smith, A. (2013). Chemical attack reported near aleppo. FT.Com, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1317968345?accountid=458
Gollust, D. (2011). Obama tells syria's assad to lead transition or leave. (). Lanham: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/868045795?accountid=458
Hassan, A., & Zavis, A. (2012, Jan 23). THE WORLD; arab league calls on assad to transfer power; the bloc's proposals come after a meeting to review the findings of the observers. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/917130783?accountid=458
Inside the free syrian army. (2012) Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, 12(3) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/931170519?accountid=35812
Landler, M., & Thee-Brenan, M. (2013, Sep 10). Survey reveals scant backing for syria strike. New York Times. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1430962973?accountid=458
Marshall, T. C. (2012). Obama warns syria against using chemical, biological weapons. (). Lanham: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1221530044?accountid=458
MIDDLE EAST: Syria’s break-up will destabilize region. (2013). Oxford: Oxford Analytica Ltd. Retrieved from: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1447620749?accountid=458
Morris, L., & DeYoung, K. (2013, Jul 13). Al-qaeda-affiliated gunmen kill free Syrian army commander, rebels say. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1399638534?accountid=458
Nisan, M. (2005, Dec 22). Alawi tribal politics and syria’s future. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/319491208?accountid=458
O’Bagy, E. (2013, March). Middle East Security Report 9: The Free Syrian Army. Retrieved from: http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/The-Free-Syrian-Army-24MAR.pdf
PANETTA: IRAN INCREASES SUPPORT TO ASSAD REGIME. (2012, Aug 17). US Fed News Service, Including US State News. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1033714618?accountid=458
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Ziadeh, R., Hadar, L., Katz, M. N., & Heydermann, S. (2012). CRISIS IN SYRIA: WHAT ARE THE U.S. OPTIONS? Middle East Policy, 19(3), 1-24 Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1321902326?accountid=458

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...Should the words 'under God' be removed from the pledge of allegiance? I. Introduction II. Ethical a. First argument i. The phrase “under God” was not introduced into the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950’s when Americans were afraid of the communists taking over. Do we really want to continue a tradition founded in fear and discrimination? ii. Con b. Second argument iii. The term ‘under God’ can be viewed as exclusive of other beliefs. As a country founded on religious freedom, shouldn’t we respect all beliefs? Isn’t ‘one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’ more appropriate and just as powerful? iv. Con III. Moral c. The pledge of allegiance reflects America’s civic culture. v. By saying "under god" is not referencing a certain religion or making this a religion statement. ii. By definition the word "God" has ties to religion. According to webster's dictionary God is "the perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped especially by Christians, Jews, and Muslims as the one who created and rules the universe : a spirit or being that has great power, strength, knowledge, etc., and that can affect nature and the lives of people : one of various spirits or beings worshipped in some religions." d. The Pledge of allegiance is not mandatory vi. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech and can opt to leave......

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