Maryland lawmakers are mulling over the difficult decisions that must be made in the coming days concerning the conflict in Syria and American intervention.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) reflected support for President Obama Sept. 4, voting along with nine other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 10-7 vote on Sept. 4 to support Obama’s call for a strike against the Syrian government in response to allegations of chemical weapon use on Aug. 21. in Damascus.
The entire U.S. Senate will vote on whether American resources should be used to intervene in the Syrian civil war next week.
“The resolution was narrowly tailored to deal with documented chemical weapons by Assad in Syria. It’s very limited with no troops on the ground with a 90-day duration,” said Cardin.
“It is limited to degrading Syria’s capacity to use chemical weapons and I think it’s the right action. I hope the international community will join us in greater numbers.”
Cardin said that aside from stopping the use of chemical weapons, the international community also had an obligation to the humanitarian side of the conflict, which has turned millions of Syrian residents into refugees.
While United Nations investigators await confirmation of accusations that Syria staged a chemical weapons attack on its civilians Aug. 21, nations are considering what action to take.
The British Parliament has already voted against taking action in Syria. U.K. lawmakers, along with many U.S. citizens and U.S. allies abroad question why military action should be used to stop the bloodshed now, more than two and a half years into the Syrian civil war.
In Maryland, Del. Aisha Braveboy, chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, said that President Obama’s decision to go before Congress before striking against the Syrian government he blames for the chemical attack is a good one.
“It’s a difficult decision to make and I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as some people might think it is,” Braveboy told the AFRO. “The question is: Are we really ready to engage in another war?”
“I don’t think that chemical weapon use is something that the world can tolerate.
But we don’t have unlimited resources- especially if we don’t have other powerful allies.”
Braveboy said that every aspect of a strike should be carefully thought out and understood- especially when it comes to retaliation from Syria or its allies, and what would be done in the way of support and nation-building after intervention.
She also said she cannot support a military strike without further information from President Obama, such as how America will sustain and grow itself economically if another war becomes a reality.
“We could end of spending billions of dollars abroad and not at home,” she said, before referencing the current economic crisis in Detroit. “Should America be doing more to help the people in Syria than [for] the businesses and people suffering right here from the economic downturn?”
While Braveboy may have doubts about taking military action against Syria, other politicians have thrown their weight wholeheartedly behind President Obama’s call for action-with or without the support of other nations especially, they say, because chemical weapon use violates international law.
“While collective action would be preferable, I believe that the United States cannot contract out its’ national security decisions to others. It is in our national security interests, and in accordance with universal humanitarian interests, to deter the future use of chemical weapons in Syria, and in any future conflicts,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
“The continued use of poison gas by Assad’s forces will not only result in the mass killings of more innocent Syrian civilians, but will also put at risk our allies in the region, including Israel, Turkey and Jordan.”
Van Hollen also said that ignoring the use of chemical weapons will also “increase the likelihood that chemical weapons could be used against American troops or civilians in future attacks or conflicts.”
Still, other lawmakers, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), remain on the fence about what action should be taken- citing the many uncertainties surrounding the situation and possible outcomes of military action.
“Many members, like me, have very serious questions about the path ahead that need to be answered in order to make an informed decision,” said Cummings, a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“As we have seen over the past decade, the use of military force is one of the most grave actions our nation can take, and it often has consequences that are impossible to foresee.”
Cummings said that in the case of Syria, detailed information on a clear objective is mandatory, along with a timeline of how long involvement will last, what other nations will be involved, and how much collateral damage can be expected, including the loss of innocent life.
“If our objective is not regime change, we must understand how we will measure success, particularly if civilian deaths using conventional weapons continue or even increase after any U.S. strike,” said Cummings. “Finally, if we do not act, we must understand the ramifications for the Assad regime, the Syrian people, and our own nation.”
Syria, located just south of Turkey and north of Jordan, is bordered to the east by Iraq with the Mediterranean Sea sharing its Western border with Lebanon.
The nation has a population of 22.4 million, according to the CIA World Factbook, a publicly-available world almanac.
More than 6 million of that number is currently displaced by the civil war that has raged over the past two and a half years.
In that time, according to the United Nations (UN), roughly 100,000 Syrians have been killed.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, 5,000 Syrians are fleeing the area every 24 hours, creating an overwhelming surge of people to the nearby countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and turkey.
Another 4.5 million are displaced within Syrian borders as a result of the violence.
In addition to Americans questioning his move on Syria, President Obama is also dealing with leaders abroad who are less than convinced that the chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government.
“I am convinced that [the chemical attack] is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want the support of powerful members of the international community, especially the United States,” said a statement by Vladimir Putin, president of Russia. “I have no doubt about this.”
Though Putin said proven use of chemical weapons deserves counteraction, he also said he believes that rebel forces- not the Syrian government- are behind the attacks.
“The Syrian government already asked the international community to conduct inspections, as they believed that rebels had used chemical weapons. But unfortunately nothing happened,” said Putin. “A reaction occurred only after Aug. 21, when these weapons were used once again.”
“Under these conditions, the idea of giving a trump card to those who are constantly calling for foreign military intervention is utter nonsense.”