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For many years, the Middle East has been experiencing turmoil as a result of religious, economic, and political factors. The Syrian civil war has been dragging on since 2011 when forces hostile to Bashar Al- Assad began to protest. After playing a passive role for over two years, the U.S. suddenly denounced Syria’s use of chemical weapons, namely sarin gas, against the rebels. The U.S. was planning the final stages of an attack until Russia intervened and negotiated a treaty requiring Syria to remove its chemical weapons. Regardless, it still disgusts me to think that our country would even consider once again acting as a “police state” in this part of the world.
In 1979, Soviet forces marched into Afghanistan under the claim of “protecting” the Afghan government against a local rebel force called the Mujahideen. Due to America’s anti-Soviet policy at the time, the American government decided to help the Mujahideen (a group that included a young Osama Bin Laden as a member) in their battle against the Soviet invaders. Aided by Britain and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. decided to supply, train, and fund the Mujahideen in hopes that they would eventually force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. By the conflict’s end, the United States had donated nearly 3 billion dollars in aid to the Mujahideen. Afghans viewed America as a savior, only to watch their aid stop after the conflict, leading Afghanistan down a dark road of tribal conflict, and eventually the rise of the Taliban government and Al Qaeda.
In Syria, some rebel forces are known to have ties to Al-Qaeda, yet America still wishes to help these same rebels. While our government decries the idea of outright military intervention, our actions will undoubtedly influence the current civil war in Syria, and potentially allow the rise of extremist groups just as it had in Afghanistan.
Some people tell me things like “The use of chemical weapons is a violation of human rights and we should do something to stop such an atrocity. As America, we have an obligation to stop the use of such inhumane tactics.”
Well, in the 1980’s, America knew of chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein against Iran, and not only failed to condemn the actions, but went so far as to support them simply because Iran was a political enemy at the time. CIA reports even reveal that America was fully aware of these attacks as early as 1983 and believed the outrage over the use of chemical weapons would subside without fuss. President Reagan himself said the United States would do “whatever was necessary to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran.”
America has been far too hypocritical on matters such as this over the course of its history. How can we trust a foreign policy philosophy that has consistently failed to realize that the support for one group of extremists one day can have terrible consequences years later? How can we trust a country to stand against the use of chemical weapons for purely humanitarian reasons when it once stood idly by as other countries used chemical weapons on innocent civilians? While I do agree that chemical weapons should be removed from Syria, I do not believe that America is the superpower that has the right or the legitimacy to police such matters.
America should look at its own experiences and failures to avoid making the same ones again.