Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Blog

Middle East needs forceful American diplomatic leadership to bring change to Syria, not missile strikes.

In the aftermath of the Syrian government’s undisputed use of chemical weapons, Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to present to the American people today the rationale for military strikes on Syria’s regime. After making a compelling demonstration of “what we know,” Secretary Kerry turned to “what we must do about it.” 

After two and a half years of armed conflict in Syria, the human toll of the crisis continues to worsen. The Assad regime’s initial brutal crackdown on the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people has made political unrest escalate into a full-fledged civil war, resulting in at least 100,000 deaths and the displacement of millions of refugees. Further, there is no question that chemical weapons were used on civilians more than once, including in an attack outside Damascus which the US Government said killed nearly 1,500 civilians. 

Based on information shared publicly by Secretary Kerry and on the actions of the Syrian regime itself, it is not hard to believe that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people. Similar to the deaths before this attack, the cruel violence in Syria is deplorable and merits an international response; however, as the US contemplates military action in Syria, we must consider whether that option will actually move the conflict closer to an end and hasten the departure of this regime.

By all accounts, punitive military action against the Assad regime will have little or no effect on curtailing the ongoing violence. To the contrary, a potential strike is more likely to cause further militarization of a civil war which must be solved through political means, a point Secretary Kerry made clearly. Military strikes, even if limited in scope and not designed to achieve regime change, may very well escalate the violence, serving neither US strategic interests in the region nor the interests of the Syrian people. Military action, whatever its justification, will in fact make the US a direct combatant in this conflict.

Like the rest of the international community, we look at the suffering in Syria with great anguish. As Arab Americans, we struggle further with what can be done - and how we can help - to bring an end to this horrific tragedy in a region we care deeply about. But the truth is that all the options before us are imperfect and tragically flawed. We continue to support options that rely on diplomacy rather than military force. That is the approach the Middle East sorely needs from the United States.

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