“With great power comes great responsibility”

 

Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II, and my father served in the U.S. Marine Corps during a peacetime period. I didn’t serve my country the same way they did. It can be a contention point for some families, but not mine. My forbearers served in the military so I could do other things like go to college.

Even though I didn’t serve in the military, as a U.S. citizen I owe a huge debt to those who did. I plan on paying back this debt by becoming active in my country’s politics. That could be by voting, by getting involved in campaigns, getting a political science degree, or becoming a political journalist, all of which I’ve done or am working on doing. When the country is debating a contentious issue, I like to be involved. Right now the most important issues we are facing is Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

We are a democracy. Debate is essential to this form of government, and active participation can help to hold our government accountable. When President Obama asked Congress for approval to start a limited military action against Syria’s government, he asked the American people to weigh in because it is Congress that would take the brunt of an unhappy electorate. People are war wary and confused on why this country needs to be involved in a place where there is no clear national security threat. For many, the answer isn’t clear. For some of the most seasoned political minds it’s not all that clear.

My views on the situation comes down to few words, power and precedent.

If the U.S. is in possession of evidence that shows that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own citizenry, which the Obama administration claims they have, then I believe we must use our military to punish those who ordered it and those who carried it out. We must go as far as we can without sending troops on the ground.  Even if it becomes clear that America must send troops in, then we should serious think about doing it.

The latest estimates are that 1,400 people were killed in the most recent chemical weapon attack. This includes women and children. The videos of the aftermath are horrible.

The U.S. is widely believed to be the most powerful nation. We have economic power, we still have industrial power, and we have overwhelming military power.  I ask, what good is all that power if we don’t actually use it to help people?

And then there is the precedent that is set if we allow tyrannical regimes to use chemical weapons without severe consequences.

Just one year ago, President Obama warned that the Syrian regime’s use of such weapons would cross a line that would change Washington’s policy on civil war. Now that has happened the U.S. cannot allow those same people to stay in power.  It sends the wrong message. When the U.S. threatens to use our power to stop rouge nations, those threats must be backed up with action, or else they become meaningless.

As a war wary nation, the U.S. has shown plenty of hesitation when it comes to this conflict. Whatever the wisdom of that policy, it’s clear now that failure to act could tell other oppressive regimes that international laws against weapons of mass destruction use are weak. We don’t want these nations testing our new presidents to see if they are unwilling to enforce international law.  President Obama, who ran for president as opposed to the steady stream of military engagements, seems to understand that American credibility is at stake.

And speaking of American presidents, the Iraq war hangs over every issue that now comes up in the Middle East. Former President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq should come up because the rationale that war was based on Iraq possessing weapons that were never found.  However, this is not the Iraq war. This time we don’t just suspect a dictator of having weapons of mass destruction, we know they have them (they recently admitted it), and we are know that they used them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to rid the Syrian government of chemical weapons by putting them under international control sounds good, but it’s fanciful because of the active civil war going on in that country. It would be hard to accomplish getting those weapons in peace time.

But let’s say they could control those weapons.  Will the world body give regimes one chance at using chemical weapons before they have to give them up?  Forcing rouge nations to give up these weapons after they used them is an unacceptable precedent as well.

In my opinion the U.S. should push for regime change.  Anything short of that will leave a man in power that used chemical weapons, and by doing so it cracks U.S. credibility.

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