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Should the United States intervene in Syria if their government uses banned chemical weapons on their civilians? Does the US have a duty to take a stand on the use of chemical weapons in foreign countries?
The conflict in Syria grew out of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, when Syrians peacefully demonstrated against Mr. Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad, as president. This family had held the presidency for 40 years. Protesters demanded democratic reforms and the Syrian government unleashed security forces on demonstrators, killing many protesters and igniting a movement made up of secular rebels who aligned with the Free Syrian Army, and rebel militias, the most powerful of which are radical Islamist groups.
After two years of struggle and 100,000 dead, the conflict has escalated to new level. There is strong evidence that the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad’s forces has used banned chemical weapons on civilians. Last week hundreds of civilians were killed in this chemical attack on the capital, Damascus, which is home to Sunni-communities and Sunni rebels – the largest religious group in Syria.
This breach of international law presents a major challenge to the Obama administration in that Assad’s forces have crossed what the Obama administration has called a “red line.” “We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Mr. Obama said….. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”
“That would change my calculus,” he added. “That would change my equation.”
President Obama is considering limited military intervention to contain the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. This would not involve deploying American troops in Syria. The plan would be to target the military units that have used chemical weapons, but would not target chemical weapons storage facilities. But can this kind of engagement work? Can military involvement be controlled in this way?
US intervention impacts the Obama administration’s foreign policy and the path that is being forged. The strategy has been to reduce American military involvement abroad, having withdrawn forces from Iraq two years ago and planned withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. Should the US be embroiled in yet another conflict? Is intervention justified in this case?
PBS NewsHour video Should U.S. Punish Syria? Debating Legality, Effectiveness and National Interest – Aug. 28, 2013
Would a possible U.S. military strike in Syria send a message that chemical weapon use is universally unacceptable or make a bad situation worse? Jeffrey Brown gets three views from Hisham Melham of Al Arabiya, Ivo Daalder of Chicago Council on Global Affairs and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago.
To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowSyria
For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.
We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.
KQED Forum episode Syria: A Red Line is Crossed – Aug. 29, 2013
President Obama has said repeatedly that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a “red line” for the U.S. With banned chemical weapons purportedly unleashed on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus last week, a U.S. intervention in Syria seems unavoidable. We’ll ask our experts what the next steps are for the U.S and Syria. And we want to hear from you: Should the U.S. intervene militarily in Syria?
PBS NewsHour Extra video White House Debates Best Way to Punish, Prevent Syrian Chemical Arms Use – Aug. 27, 2013
If the U.S. doesn’t wait for the U.N. to finish inspecting the alleged chemical weapons attack site in Syria before taking action, it may still rely on those findings in building an international case. Margaret Warner joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the White House continues to consult allies and consider military action.
KQED’s The Lowdown post Six Excellent Resources Explaining the Situation in Syria – Aug. 31, 2013
On Saturday, President Obama announced his willingness to launch military action in Syria in order to punish the government of Bashar al-Assad for its alleged use of chemical weapons in a recent attack that killed hundreds of civilians. Syria has been embroiled in a state of civil war since March of 2011, when government protests began as part of the Arab Spring. Here are six excellent resources to help make sense of the conflict, why it matters so much to both the region and the world, and what the role the United States will likely play in it.
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