The Question of the Day

Win McNamee/Getty Images

General Martin Dempsey, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Chuck Hagel testify in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)


As a complicated issue of how to uphold an international chemical weapons convention, without becoming entrenched in a foreign country’s civil war, Syria is a fine balance between doing too little and doing too much. Toss in broad uncertainty towards the parameters of a limited kinetic mission, and it is unsurprising that it has managed to unite bipartisan support, both for and against US intervention.

Opponents of the resolution question whether US strategic interests are truly at risk, what the limited military response would accomplish, and why more states have not pledged their participation when this is not only President Barack Obama’s red line, but “the world’s red line, humanity’s red line,” according to Secretary of State John Kerry. They also question the timing, and what precedent this sets for American intervention in the future. Some Congressional members are skeptical of whether either side is worth supporting, perceiving a dictatorial regime on one hand, and rising radicalism among the rebel groups on the other.

Sec. Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responded that the focus is not upon choosing a side, but upon what the US should do in direct response to the breaking of an international agreement. Their main strategic goal for this limited military strike is to detract from President Assad’s ability to utilize chemical weapons in the future. It is clear the Obama administration would like to avoid involvement in a civil war that is in desperate need of a political solution. Sec. Kerry and Hagel also repeatedly asserted that it is in our best interests to enforce an international standard that protects American soldiers and allies in the region. Iran and North Korea were evoked, as cheerleaders of US inaction. Sec. Kerry goes on to assure representatives that, based upon current intelligence, he is 100% confident President Bashar al-Assad will continue to utilize these weapons routinely, if the US remains idle.

The global response has been lukewarm. The UK voted down military action, Russia continues to question who utilized the weapons in the first place, and Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have petitioned for greater international action against President Assad. As neighbors of Syria, they hope to avoid an increased volume of refugees and are one “stiff breeze” away from future chemical attacks. Members of the Arab League have pledged “significant” funding for US action, with France, Canada, and Australia pledging public support as well. As heads of state convene upon St. Petersburg, the intervention issue is sure to overshadow economic discussions at the launch of the G-20 summit today.

So, what do you think? It seems the flight of a few cruise missiles is nearly inevitable, but do you believe it should happen? Is this an issue of the US being led by emotion – having to prove its credibility, or are we discussing the larger issue of reinforcing international conventions? Unpredictability and risk abound, but there is one thing we do know for certain: the US will be criticized regardless of what it decides, so will we be paralyzed by the no-win scenario or will we show a higher caliber in the American decision-making process?

It is also important to note, in such a simplified poll, that two people who have the same answer may have wildly divergent reasons for those responses. As noted above, Syria’s ongoing civil conflict remains a complex issue with many moving parts, and strong regional, international, short- and long-term ramifications, so it is not surprising that individual American responses to our upcoming actions in the country will be equally mosaic.

To see how your responses compare to a national survey, here is what the Pew Research Center found among American adults between August 29th – September 1st. 

For live updates on this dynamic issue, the New York Times maintains highlights and breaking news on its dashboard, “Crisis in Syria.”

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5 thoughts on “The Question of the Day

  1. Robert Hintz says:

    “Lebanon and Iraq have petitioned for greater international action against President Assad.” – Not to split hairs, but that’s not really true, particularly given the close relationship of Lebanon and Iraq to Assad (with Hezballah and Shiite Militias in Iraq openly intervening in the conflict.)

  2. Xian Zhang says:

    I should have clarified that it was officials of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq whom released a joint statement asking the international community to “overcome existing differences and come together to stop the fighting.”

  3. Robert Hintz says:

    “”“overcome existing differences and come together to stop the fighting.”” /// Different than outright criticizing Assad (Particularly as it relates to Lebanon and Iraq).

  4. Xian Zhang says:

    I did not write “criticize.” At this point, those nations’ interests are to stymie the in-flow if Syrian refugees, so they would fall in favor of some sort of intervention if it achieves that goal. For a country so closely intertwined with the politics of Syria, it is bracing to feel increased pressures regardless of an intervention or not. If they believed it would do anything to decrease civil conflict in their neighbor, Lebanese officials (not Hez) would not necessarily oppose a US military strike against Assad, especially if the goal is to bruise, not overthrow.

  5. Robert Hintz says:

    “I did not write “criticize.” At this point, those nations’ interests are to stymie the in-flow if Syrian refugees, so they would fall in favor of some sort of intervention if it achieves that goal.”

    Not true. If you read the quote closely and match it with the politics of Lebanon and Iraq, you will notice that they do not name a particular party (As your article may suggest – Assad). It’s rather general in nature, and reads like “Hey, it’s not all Assad’s fault” lets work to fix this (does not call for removal of Assad).


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