U.S. involvement in Syria — no easy decisions with many great unknowns

By Saba Long

The past decade has truly tested the American public — we have experienced tremendous hardships that have caused us to question our government, our corporate structure, our tolerance and our self-appointed role in policing the world.

As another anniversary of the September 11th attacks draws nigh, the President of the United States — Barack Obama — and Congress are in the midst of a nuanced debate, one that crosses partisan preferences and talking points.

Since 2011, an estimated 100,000 casualties have occurred during the Syrian civil war.

Days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the use of sarin nerve gas on civilians by the Syrian government. In fact, senior Syrian military leaders have ordered soldiers to fire the chemical weapons rather they face a firing squad.

The White House has dubbed the use of chemical gas a “ game-changer” and a “moral obscenity,” urging Congress in the coming days to vote in favor of sending American war ships and planes to Syria. To be sure, Kerry is correct, however, the United Nations and the international community is no stranger to the evils of President Bashar al-Assad. Global leaders have dilly-dallied on a shared action towards the Syrian civil war for two and half years; there is plenty of blame to go around, although the United States will bear the burden.

As the U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan declared in 2012: “It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office. The greater focus, however, must be on measures and structures to secure a peaceful long-term transition to avoid a chaotic collapse.”

Clearly the United States cannot go it alone should Congress decide to permit a military strike on key Syrian targets. The British Parliament recently voted against its military participation, contrary to the views of Prime Minister David Cameron. A poll commissioned by the BBC found nearly 75 percent of UK adults agreed with the Parliament’s decision.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently in the midst of a re-election campaign, urged U.N. action and stated Germany “will not participate” in a strike. France has declared, “All options are on the table.” Russia and China remain unmoved in vetoing a Western strike.

Should Assad remain in office, full-blown war seems inevitable whether it’s two weeks or two months from now. As Congress prepares for a number of classified briefings and floor speeches, they must ask and have answered what is the consequence of direct U.S. intervention.

Supporters of the Syrian Revolution, through its official Facebook page, are sharing updates happening on the ground and some have posted the contact information for members of Congress, urging followers to ask for their support. U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) remarked Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation: “My constituents are war-weary.”

Should Congress vote against military action, how will the Obama Administration respond and what will be the consequence of that response? Surely this is no easy decision with a great deal of unknowns.

As the debate in Washington accelerates, let us heed the words of Winston Churchill.

“Let us learn our lessons. … Never believe any war will be smooth and easy or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events… incompetent or arrogant commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprise, awful miscalculations.”

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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