An Open Letter to President Barack Obama
Dear Mr. President,
First let me convey my respect and gratitude for the work you have done and continue to do in representing the interests of our country, at home and abroad. As a constituent, I am encouraged by the way in which foreign affairs have been conducted since the beginning of your tenure. My past exposure to the issues of the expenditure of American resources and the use of military force has not been a positive one; I think we can all agree that errors in strategy and abuse of intelligence has set the nation back from the more globally sympathetic position it occupied prior to those actions.
In light of this negative image of the United States’ perceived attempt to act as enforcer in these international conflicts, I believe that during your term of office, our military resources- personnel and otherwise- have been put to good use in deciding issues where the underrepresented and oppressed have found themselves in need of aid during times of crisis.
While I understand the risks associated with the actions taken, especially of being seen to impose Western values, and defend only Western interests, I still feel that the liberties and virtues outlined in instruments used in the founding of our nation do not belong solely to our own people. I believe that if these liberties are being withheld from others by the use of violence, that we have a duty and responsibility to assist if we can. In this case, I believe we can.
The concern I want to outline in this letter, Mr. President, is the position in which our nation and your administration has been placed by the conflict in Syria, and the position in which the people in Syria now find themselves. I am aware that the UN Security Council has not taken a resolution in this matter because China and Russia have exercised their veto. I respect the UN as an institution, but it is in this situation evidently ill-placed to garner the necessary support for an action taken by its collected members if those members are permitted to ignore injustice at their convenience. Russia and China have implicitly suggested that their leadership does not consider the massive of loss of innocent human life in catastrophic acts of violence to be their primary concern in deciding whether or not to take a military resolution against the offenders. What their primary concern is has been speculated upon and discussed, but we know what it is not.
The reasoning that has so far been offered for why America will not yet take decisive action is because, unlike in the Libyan crisis, the opposition forces in Syria do not immediately appear to unified- which is an advantage to the regime, who will continue to use whatever tactics they can to promote the image and prevent organization. The discussion here is in a context of the question of whether or not to arm the Syrian rebels, but I believe that challenge is the symptom of a greater evil: the murder of innocents by the use of explosive devices.
In a small scale, carried out by an individual whose method of delivery is the self, we refer to it as terrorism, duly note it and add it to our assessment of whichever conflicted region as though it is simply part of a census report. In that situation it can indeed be difficult to tell who is the enemy and who is not, when the divisions are so numerous and rivalries ingrained over centuries of ideological conflict. It becomes part of the landscape, so to speak, and we do not think of it the broader terms of warfare.
This is not the case in Syria. In Syria, the Assad regime is using large scale weapons meant to inflict maximum carnage to kill anyone in proximity to the opposition. They are not using suicide bombers. They are using bombs against women, children, foreign journalists, combatants, non-combatants, anyone who might be unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are destroying their own cities and their own towns.
I believe in war. I believe in combat. I believe that there are some ends that are morally or strategically incumbent upon a nation to achieve in which it must use the means of strategic military application. A leader must choose these issues with tremendous prudence and consideration, especially in cases where loss of life is assured, and where the moral imperative may not be clear cut or nationally advantageous. Sometimes war is the right thing, but it is never an easy thing.
Bashar al-Assad has not considered his actions with the interests of his people or his nation in mind. He is fighting a war to retain power, to protect his own position, not to defend and protect the lives of his people or whatever rhetoric and lies he has chosen to issue through state controlled channels of communication. It is, apparently, easy for him to do these things.
He has chosen to employ slaughter- indefensible, horrific slaughter of those who oppose him, and those who have never opposed him. It will continue, and it will escalate. It is not a matter of arming rebels or offering humanitarian aid. It is well beyond that stage. It has progressed now to the stage where Assad himself must be declared a criminal, must be pursued, must be removed from power as Mubarak, Ghadaffi and Hussein have been, as all their ilk should be. We should be positioning ourselves to aid the fighters and to offer them the kind of military support that we offered Libya- that is to say, a grade elevated from merely offering arms to the opposition.
Assad is using bombs, Mr. President. He is bombing his own nation. He is the enemy of his people. The rebellion, organized or not, cannot defend against bombs with the kind of materiel we would supply to them. We are not in a position to strike strategic points, because it is true that the strategic points have not yet become clear. What is clear is that the rhetoric condemning the Assad regime is not strong enough; the consequences are not clearly evidence enough. But if we allow this to continue, if we allow a genocide to blossom in front of us, we forsake all of the values that we ourselves hold dear, the liberties that we enjoy, that we hold to be ours without condition. If we do not apply pressure to our allies in the Far East, the embedded violence in the Middle East will continue to prevent nations and new governments from wanting to partner with us, to trust us, or to trade with us.
Assad is using bombs. We cannot sanction enough against him, we cannot turn his head with words, and we cannot stop him with a stern finger. Regardless of any image we may project of attempting to police world events, this is not an issue on which there is a lack of moral clarity. If we are to issue an injunction to stop the killing, we must be prepared to stop the killing, and the regime must understand now that the killing will stop, and if it does not, they will no longer be positioned to decide the issue. But the time to make that ultimatum is now. Not after another thousand lives are lost.
If the US takes a position of leadership on this, a cadre of allies will follow. Those allies are already calling for increased measures, and if we add the gravity of our own considerable military power, we will not be doing so alone. The NATO efforts in Libya were praiseworthy and unified; the need in Syria is more dire, and if Syria can transform into a democratically controlled sovereign nation, it will benefit both the Middle East and the international community. If we allow it to crumble into chaos, or stand by while the killing continues, we will lose allies and gain enemies.
Some injustice is murky, regionally isolated, incidental, difficult to perceive and even more difficult to correct. But in this case, there can be no question. Now is the time to act. The American people, the world, and history will remember.
Victoria De Capua Campbell