Opinion – Syria

By: Maggi Quigley

Last Tuesday, President Obama’s speech on Syria to the American people was intended to lay out a clear concise argument about taking “punitive military action” in Syria in response to last month’s chemical weapons attacks on civilians. Instead, Americans were faced with a flip-flop opinion from the president and a whole lot of murky foreign policy, which left some of the best political minds in the field stumped.

Instead of clear cut foreign policy the American people have come to expect from leaders, we watched the president take a step back from his “red line in the sand,” suspending the vote as he rocketed toward a defeat on his Syria legislation in the House. Frankly, if Obama had wanted to do anything, he would have already done so, and would not be seeking approval from Congress to cover his ass.

In addition, he praised Russia, a staunch ally of Syria’s President Assad and his regime, for their “forward” and “promising” plan to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. A process, which he conveniently failed to mention, could take years, or decades.

Some may argue that Russia is appearing to be more diplomatic than the United States in this situation, after proposing international chemical weapons control. Earlier this week Putin wrote an editorial for the New York Times that at points questions the United States’ interpretation of democracy, claiming that the government utilizes “brute force” to get their way, and that they operate on a “you’re either with us or against us” mentality.

However, do not let this sheer cover of diplomatic and peaceful intentions fool you; Russia is just trying to cover their bases. Russia’s main concern is maintaining their navy’s access to a strategically critical base in the port of Tartus, not to mention the massive amount of arms it sells to the Syrian government annually. In addition, instability allows Russia to continue to profit greatly from oil in the region.

As news came this past weekend about an agreement being reached, many do no know what this means for the future of this conflict. Sure, committees and task forces will be formed, teams sent in to safely collect the weapons, and eventually they will be destroyed. However, no solid plan or time frame has been laid out for the international community. It seems like a weak response to something that has dominated the news in every facet for the last month.

Is this the end of the conflict? Hell no. Syria has been engaged in a civil war for the past few years killing over 100,000 people on all sides according to the United Nations. Sure, the big world powers can take Syria’s chemical weapons, but with the constant inflow of guns from Russia, it will do little good. But if responding to the death of 1,000 plus people, a small incident in the history of the war, (after tens of thousands have already been killed without a word) avoids a foreign policy hail storm for the Obama administration, the world will give Putin an undeserved political gold star.

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