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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Pax Americana: The need for U.S. intervention

<rly hours of the morning of April 7th, two American naval destroyers patrolling the Mediterranean Sea unleashed a barrage of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles towards Syria. The target of the munitions, 60 of them in total, was the Shayrat Air Base in Homs, Syria, under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Shayrat Air Base is special for a very tragic reason, as it is the site from which airplanes carrying chemical weapons conducted their brutal against Syrian civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun, resulting in the deaths of up to 100 men, women, and children.

By the end of U.S. Naval strike, 59 of the missiles had found their mark, resulting in the destruction of various hangers, air defense systems, and fuel depots. While the physical destruction and the precision of the operation were impressive, the real importance of the action lies in the message that it sends to the world; the United States will not tolerate the violation of long-standing treaties and conventions regulating the humane conduct of warfare, and it is ready to use whatever force necessary to ensure that such standards remain firmly in place.

Such reassurance is crucial in upholding at least a modicum of stability during the volatile times that we currently find ourselves in, a time defined by uneasy cooperation with despots, disillusioned leadership at home, and the ever-changing nature of global terrorism and militancy. In our efforts to adjust to such a state of affairs, where fear dominates and threats are confronted right at our doorstep, we have at moments forgotten or disregarded tenets that have defined the liberal world order for decades. Ideals of privacy protection, legal rights for suspected enemy combatants, and robust aversion to civilian casualties have at least partially been abandoned and relegated to memory as the world escalated its fight against the scourge of terrorism.

Yet, as this month’s missile attack showed, there are still clear lines that we as the world’s leading nation are not yet willing to see crossed. While we have at times faltered in upholding our complete moral rectitude, and we may unfortunately falter again, we have proved to the world that America and its unparalleled military power can and will serve as a global force for good.

Such credibility came under serious threat in the summer of 2013, when Bashar al-Assad was confirmed to have used Sarin gas against his own people, resulting in hundreds of deaths in the areas around the capital Damascus. For over a year, President Barack Obama had touted to the world that if Assad were ever to employ such weapons of mass destruction, then it would cross a “red line” that would alter America’s response to the Syrian Civil War. When the attack occurred, Obama had the opportunity to show that his word had meaning, that his promises to ensure that internationally-accepted protocols would continue to be enforced were more than simple platitudes. However, the Commander-in-Chief caved in to public pressure and did nothing, even as allies such as France committed their own forces if the United States initiated an operation against Assad.

Such cowardliness should have embarrassed and frustrated anyone, Democrat or Republican, who understands that the world’s order of stability and relative peace rests upon credibility, and that threats against authoritarians and war-criminals are only valid if they come with direct action. This means, rather morbidly, that violence against evil is necessary to protect what is good, to defend what is right. There are moments where eloquently written speeches and diplomatic resolutions at the United Nations fall short, and that is when the time for kinetic action begins.

There have been far too many instances where the United States stood idly by as parts of the world fell into utter chaos, where the lives of scores of innocent human beings of all creeds were irreparably harmed or unduly shortened. I am thinking of Cambodia under the reign of the Khmer Rouge, of Rwanda in 1994, of the Balkans after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, of the horrors of Darfur, and of the massacre of religious minorities in Burma and the Central African Republic. Unfortunately, there are volumes of other examples of inaction, inaction that brings only suffering.

Suffering that can be mitigated if the world’s only superpower wields its capabilities graciously and effectively.

This is not to say that every action our country takes abroad is fruitful. We all recognize the haunting specter that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and we live with the consequences of myopic decisions that can create more problems than they solve. Yet, such failures should not be seen as a blanket condemnation of all American action. The United States, even with all of its shortcomings, is the only power responsible enough to be entrusted with bringing order to the world’s global hotspots. In the event of an American absence from the world’s affairs, any vacuum of power would not exist for long, and it would be filled by nations such as Russia and China, nations whose leaders have little regard for the protection of human rights and basic liberties. I fear for a world where Vladimir Putin or the Chinese Communist Party decides what is to be done and what is to be upheld. I fear for a world where the strongest democracy ever seen withdraws itself to its own shores, content with its own prosperity while ignoring the dreadful reality of those across the seas.

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