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In March of 2003 the world woke up to news and scenes of Iraq under attack. Chief amongst the reasons given by President George Bush for this attack was that Saddam Hussein’s regime was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and as such a threat to global security. At the time we didn’t know the whole truth but one thing a vast majority agreed on was that Saddam Hussein, for a long time, set the world of on edge, was a brutal dictator and had to be stopped. We had someone like that once, his name was Adolf Hitler, he killed millions of jews and started a World War. How plausible the evidence was against Saddam Hussein was not fully known, but in light of his atrocities the world looked the other way and accepted the many casualties of the Iraq war. In the end, in the words of President George Bush, “we got him”.
In the aftermath of the Iraq War we have learnt that much of the information shared was inaccurate, tantamount to propaganda even, WMDs were never found and the reason for invasion became less clear. This war is a stain on both the US and UK government.
Declassified intelligence released from the White House suggests that on August 21st Syrian Government used Chemical Weapons in Damascus, killing 1,429 people in total, 426 of whom are children. Whilst it cannot be disputed that Chemical Weapons were used in Damascus, scepticism abounds about the nature of this intelligence and its absolute certainty that the Assad regime is responsible. Moreover, the shadow of the Iraq War looms large over this. A war that was based on false intelligence. But for the tenets of democracy, Syria would’ve been under attack by now, David Cameron lost a vote in Parliament which went against an action strike. Without question most prevalent in this reasoning would’ve been the Iraq War started by the previous labour government under Tony Blair. President Obama announced on Saturday 31st of August from the Rose Garden of the White House, that he will be seeking congressional authorisation on whether to take military action against Syria.
For much of his presidency, President Obama has sought to take the path with least violence, albeit complicated by the continued use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but under his administration the war in Iraq has ended, a war he openly condemned and he is making every effort to end the war in Afghanistan. His approach to foreign policy has been to seek a peaceful resolution in the first instance therefore it is safe to say he understands the psychology of war. Some may argue that seeking congressional authority is weak but understanding the need for diplomacy under a democracy in a situation like this, is anything but. Whilst many are against military attack on Syria, there is a greater conscensus that the Syrian government should be punished for their actions. But where do we draw the line? Mistakes have been made in the past and lessons ought to be learnt from them; during the Vietnam War hundreds of thousands died or suffered dire side effects when Agent Orange was deployed during Operation Ranch Hand by the US in its chemical warfare. In 1945 during World War II the US dropped Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a bid to get the Japan to surrender, those who paid the price were largely the innocents.
The UN Security Council is ultimately powerless on this issue because its member states have rendered it so; two of its permanent members are staunchly against a strike on Syria but more for political and economical gains than humanitarian reasons. Russia and China have vested interest in the region; Russia is Syria’s most prominent arms supplier and the Syrian port of Tartus is leased by Russia to gain access to the Mediterranean. China takes a more subtle stand; whilst it is against the use of Chemical Weapons it will not vote against Syria more likely because it is a hub of commerce beneficial to China.
When I look at the aftermath of Iraq, the case, however compelling, made by POTUS still leaves one unsettled. Even after the deaths of Saddam Hussein and some his cohorts, the country is still unstable and the road to stability looks longer and fraught with strife, they may never get there. I pray for the contrary.
The world has been at war for longer than I have been alive and the ultimate case here is for war and in war, innocent people always die, under the the rules of engagement casualties of war become justifiable. War breeds hate. Hate breeds war it is an unending cycle. The use of Chemical Weapons is unacceptable and should not go unpunished, however, in the cause of this military action innocent people will still die and that alone defeats the purpose, regardless of the scale of action. Enough lives have been lost. This is the primary reason the United Nations was formed;
to maintain International peace and security and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to the breach of the peace
And to this end, it is time for the organisation to step in and take a course of action, with the support of its member states and Security Council.
There has got to be another way.
Whilst President Obama makes a case for retaliation, we hear next to nothing on what measures are in place to deal with the aftermath. What are the proposals to protect the innocent? Sentimental it may sound, but it is not okay to justify the ever growing casualties of war.
Damascenes and the rest of the world breathe a short sigh of relief for now. We dig in our heels and pray for peace because order by force is not order at all, it is an underlying threat to much needed World Peace.