U.S. must act with care in Syrian conflict

What was once a civilization laden with coveted mosaic art, minarets extending in the skyline from architecturally impeccable mosques and a sea of individuals residing under an empire known for its religious and cultural tolerance has now been reduced to a state in constant rebellion, dispute and internal warfare.

Recent allegations against the Syrian government using sarin gas in its civil war have heightened international tensions. President Barack Obama has taken a particularly staunch stance against this Syrian action, saying in an interview that the “international community’s credibility is on the line.”

Obama’s plan for action is to launch a military attack against Syria to punish the war-torn country for its particularly destructive use of chemical warfare, the incident on Aug. 21 that resulted in the deaths of 1,500 civilians.

It’s incredible that, just as the war in Afghanistan seems to have reached an equilibratory state of near termination with the large possibility of U.S. troop removal by the end of 2014, another war seems to be brewing just 1,000 miles west. There’s no question as to whether or not it’s admirable for the U.S. to stand up for that which is right and take action where others turn their heads. However, interfering in a nation on the brink of collapse may not be the best idea either.

“There’s no question as to whether or not it’s admirable for the US to stand up for that which is right…”

There’s no need to look farther than Afghanistan—once the U.S. overthrew the Taliban regime, it took the responsibility of helping to set up an Afghani democracy. If the U.S. intervenes and helps the Syrian rebels take over, who’s to say that it won’t spend the next decade helping the country establish a new government? Is it the most prudent idea to devote time and resources in assisting the setup of another country when the U.S. itself would prosper better from shifting those resources domestically?

In addition, there is the risk of the effects war will have on Syrian landscape and society. As a Muslim who appreciates the maintenance of Islamic heritage, the war in the Arabian states has been highly upsetting. For the past decade, the Iraq War has resulted in bombings, drone strikes and general violence that has resulted in destruction of various infrastructure and cultural entities, like mosques and local historic buildings. If international military intervention in Syria takes place, more and more pieces of Islamic history may be lost as a byproduct of warfare.

Finally, there are the religious stratifications between the Sunni and Shia groups in the region that should be considered. Shia and Hezbollah-backed Lebanon, Iran and Iraq would not hesitate to jump in on the action if the U.S. were to strike in the region, possibly exacerbating the civil war to a multinational one between the two Islamic branches.

The decisions that Congress takes in the next few days may determine the state of the powder-keg that is the Arabian Peninsula for the next few years. Care must be taken, or the wrong action may cause a catastrophic eruption of built-up tensions from the past few years.