Since I last spoke on Syria, the unthinkable has gone down: international diplomacy. Or at least that’s the fantastical illusion. Where do I begin? For the last two weeks the world has sat waiting for a vote from Congress on whether or not the United States would carry out a military strike against the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons. Call it a consequence of spontaneity, but in those two weeks the U.S. has done a staggering amount of backtracking. And by the U.S., I mean Obama. At first, his decision to strike Syria appeared unanimous and irreversible as though it would come in the following days or even hours. But then, understanding the negative public perception of a quick- to-war president and taking his cue from British Prime Minister Cameron, Obama called on Congress to approve authorization of a strike.
Years after Obama’s presidency has concluded, someone from his administration with inside knowledge of the situation will someday write a tell-all which will include a passage describing Obama’s deep displeasure in turning to Congress on Syria. He won’t say it now, but Syria is about saving face for the president. When he drew his now infamous “red line,” he was drafting a public promise to the world that his administration would take military action against Syria in the event of chemical weapons. He ignored that red line multiple times since setting it, but the events of August 21 were different. This time, there were widespread visual accounts of the attack on social media and a higher death toll. And so now Obama faces a conundrum: take action or go back on his word. Because that’s how it might seem to those internationally who took his “red line” statement as more than just empty rhetoric. And a president who wants to have some political life after his or her tenure ends can’t look like a liar.
But it’s not that easy once you involve Congress. Now, Obama faces defeat and embarrassment as PM Cameron faced when Parliament struck down a proposed British strike on Syria. And that is exactly why the news I woke up to this morning is such a poignant moment in United States foreign policy that it drove me once again to blog.
When I started this site, I meant to blog only about media because I’m a working journalist and I thought it’d be beneficial to analyze industry news. But there are far greater things in my life that I’m passionate about, that move me to write. And today I find myself intensely driven to type up some words on the all-but-confirmed United States military strike on Syria. Human rights has and always will remain at the core of my heart; it’s what I hope to spend the rest of my life reporting on.
The Syrian Civil War is one I’ve followed closely since its fledgling days during the Arab Spring. If you’ve paid attention to my tweets, you’ll know this to be true. The war began as an understated, afterthought to the cause but is now the only country still fighting the same war more than two years later. Even Egypt has evolved into something far more politically convoluted.
Here’s some quick, consolidated background info on what I’m about to discuss: Syria’s been engaged in a brutal civil war since March 2011, the war involves mainly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military regime, the Free Syrian Army (rebels who seek to remove Assad), Hezbollah (sided with Assad), and Al-Qaeda (sided with the rebels), last year President Obama drew a “red line” for military intervention and that was chemical warfare, last week the Syrian army committed genocide with sarin nerve gas, the U.S. and its foreign allies are now weighing their options for a military strike. [UPDATE: Secretary Kerry just confirmed in a press conference 1,429 were killed in the chemical attack, including 426 children.] More than 100,000 Syrians have died to date (and that’s a very conservative estimate). Here’s an excellent interactive timeline for in-depth information on the war. The Washington Post’s Syria for dummies is a good primer too.
Without further rambling, I present my thoughts on U.S. military intervention. Disclaimer: These thoughts are my own; they stand independent of any media organization or publication I’m affiliated with. They are biased opinions. Treat them as such.
I just wanted to take a moment to honor Martin Luther King Jr. today and talk briefly about his influence on my life and, particularly, on my career as a journalist. For most, MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech is the pinnacle of his influence on not just the United States of America, but also the world. It’s his mark on history, one of the most widely read and watched texts of all time.
As a child, I remember my small, predominately-Caucasian Catholic elementary school setting aside time both on MLK Day and during Black History Month to educate us on his life and memory. Foregoing the predictable, we sat down and read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in its entirety, taking turns each paragraph. As I read these words today, that same feeling I felt as a child revisits me. There’s a passage from that letter that has not only become one of my favorite quotes, but also my personal mantra as a journalist.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.”