Midst the confusion, frustration, and trepidation that is Syria lately, it is easy to lose sight of just what role the U.S. is supposed to play in foreign affairs. In a recent speech, Obama declared the U.S. was not the police force of the world and would do everything in its power to stay out of yet another war, but the threat of U.S. action still loomed. A common point made against military action in Syria is that we have enough domestic issues to deal with already, why add another foreign entanglement to the mix? Many Americans support this isolationist policy and anxiously awaited Obama’s formal declaration that U.S. troops would not be setting foot in Syria.
The announcement came as a relief to many, but some worry that by releasing pressure on Assad will allow him to continue killing civilians. To quote Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, clearing the threat of military action in Syria will allow “Russia and Syria (to) play us like a yo-yo”. Russia and China, in fact, are the reason the U.S. and France are having difficulty reaching an agreement over how to deal with the remaining chemical weapons in Syria. Russia, a close ally and weapons supplier to Syria, has been blocking action by the UN Security Council, leaving the responsibility of reaching any sort of resolution up to the U.S. and France. This conflict of interest between the U.S. and France, and Russia and China has left the UN powerless as its major members butt heads over how to enforce these international war laws.
Ideally, the UN would take charge and the Security Council would decide how to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons as a neutral unilateral organization of countries. However, the world is made of imperfect countries with various strengths, weaknesses, and motives, so cooperation is impossible. So while the UN stalls, Obama and the U.S. government have taken it upon themselves to provide the aid and possible intervention being denied to Syrians.
Nick Paton Walsh and Matt Smith, CNN, 9/15/13
Matthew Pinsker, USA Today, September 11, 2013
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, September 11, 2013
Nicholas Burns, GlobalPost, September 10th, 2013
Max Fisher, Washington Post, August 29th, 2013