In the last few days of August, the Syrian government allegedly unleashed a string of deadly chemical weapon attacks upon its own citizens. The Washington Post reported that over 1,400 Syrian citizens were killed in the strikes. President Obama as well as other Western leaders condemned the attacks as “an abomination … not only for those people [in Syria] but to all of humanity.” This much is fact. These chemical attacks served as much more than a show of a repressive dictator’s power. They sparked a new basis for international discussion about the role of nations in fulfilling the “moral imperative” that attempts to justify every modern military intervention among nations.
But is military intervention really necessary? There are a number of arguments that are employed by defenders of military intervention, many of which are ridden with logical flaws and other fallacies.
1. We have a moral obligation to help those who are affected by the conflict.
It is true that thousands of Syrian civilians either lost their lives, or witnessed the loss of their friends and family. It is also safe to say that the same are in need of assistance to help rebuild following the devastation. However, this does not warrant a military intervention, because it is quite possible that both the United States and the United Nations may provide aid through more peaceful means. International non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross can step in and continue to pursue its goal of helping people who are in serious need of medical attention. In addition, individual nations can help refugees by shipping food and supplies to the affected populace.
2. We are part of the United Nations, so it is our duty to use military intervention against the Syrian government.
The United Nations was indeed established after World War II in hopes of preventing conflicts in the modern era. However, one of the most common misconceptions about the UN is that it can, and should, use military force to coerce governments to submit to its will. In fact, the UN Charter explicitly argues against the use of deadly force against any nation, stating that “all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (Article 2.4).
3. We need to send a clear message to the Syrian government that these attacks are not to be tolerated.
Once again, military intervention is not necessary and there exist many other, and more peaceful, approaches to sending such a message to the Syrian leaders. In the past, this has come in the form of trade embargoes and even diplomatic talks, both of which do not involve the sacrifice of young men and women of our armed forces. It is simply illogical to expect to stop the killing of civilians by potentially killing more civilians via a full military intervention.
In short, military intervention is an extremely violent and drastic measure that should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary. Before coming to those terms, lawmakers around the world should be aware that there are countless alternative initiatives to the use of military force. Unfortunately, governments often fail to consider these peaceful options, progressing immediately to violence.