Students, prof. mull America’s role in Syria

As the crisis in Syria dominates the headlines, MSUM students generally agree: The United States should not bomb the country.

“We have enough issues of our own to deal with,” said communication studies senior Dylan Furst, reflecting the most widespread stance of more than a dozen MSUM students interviewed. “It would cause more problems than it would solve issues.”

More than 100,000 Syrians have died in a 30-month civil war between the government and rebel groups. The United States began considering military action after an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, which the Americans accuse the Syrian government of orchestrating, killed more than 1,400 people in the Damascus suburbs. President Barack Obama decided to ask Congress to authorize a limited bombing campaign, but the proposal received a tepid response. Now, the vote is on hold and may never be taken because the Syrians have admitted possessing chemical weapons and agreed to a Russian proposal to give up their stockpiles. In the meantime, an American bombing campaign appears increasingly less likely.

Education senior Andrew DeKrey credits the Obama administration’s military threat with getting the Syrian leaders to acquiesce.

“The world’s never going to be perfect, whether we intervene or not,” he said. “Them giving up their chemical weapons is the best possible solution without us having to bomb them.”

Opinions on campus seemed to mirror the American public. A Gallup Poll, published last week, indicated 62 percent of Americans oppose military intervention; 28 percent support it. Other polls have yielded similar results.

Kaylee Emineth, an elementary inclusive education freshman, said the last thing we need is another war.

“We have the hungry, the homeless and people without jobs,” she said. “Worry about our people, please.”

Her friend Brittney Gordon, an early education and special education junior, said leaders must weigh whether Syria presents an actual threat to the United States.

“If they’re not a threat, then I don’t think we should get involved,” Gordon said.

But business administration junior Melhik Negatu said the United States should take military action.

“The world is connected,” she said. “So it will affect us somehow if we don’t intervene. It’s good to have a peaceful world.”

In the post-Cold War era, some countries including the United States have adopted the position that they are responsible to get involved in foreign matters “where human rights are seriously violated,” said MSUM political science professor Andrew Conteh, a former ambassador from Sierra Leone to the Soviet Union.

“Some members of the international community may see it as a new form of imperialism,” he said.

Conteh outlined five requirements for United States involvement: Intervention should be a last resort; it ought to not seek regime change; it should be for limited period; it should be proportionate to the inflicted harm; and it should be authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

“This is a complex issue, and it is a complex region because of geography,” he said, pointing out Syria’s proximity to Middle East hotspots Israel and Iraq.

Although most students interviewed said they had a basic understanding of the situation, they had not paid enough attention to have a strong opinion on the Syrian crisis.

“I think some people do form opinions on it without knowing enough,” said Renee Fast, an early childhood education freshman. “We need to become more aware of it before we have strong opinions on it.”

Conteh said Americans should “think globally and act locally.”

“There is a need for us to pay attention to these issues because, directly or indirectly, they impact every American,” he said. “We live in a globalized world and nation-states are becoming more and more interdependent.”


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