The Penn College Republicans staunchly support this administration’s decisive action against tyranny and oppression. We believe that such action will strongly dissuade Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons against his own citizens.
After the atrocities of April 4, a proportional military response was the only reasonable choice for this administration. From the moment that the United States declared a red line against the use of chemical weapons, we committed ourselves to action. Whether or not declaring a red line was the right move, President Barack Obama did declare one. As a result, President Donald Trump could not avoid a military response without damning repercussions.
In politics, as in life, you are only as good as your word. Thus, strong words can replace the need for action, but only if they are backed by the willingness and capacity to act. When the president enforced the red line against chemical weapons, he sent a glaring message to the rest of the world that America will keep its word, that if you violate international law, you can expect consequences. A track record of strong military action replaces the need for future force. It makes our red lines credible.
Admittedly, there is a risk in any action we take. But every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement. And despite cries promoting “pacifism," in this situation, inaction meant appeasement. It is the same course that cowardly European leaders followed in the face of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It is the same course that a war-weary America followed during Saddam Hussein’s remilitarization. It is the same course that an apprehensive administration followed five years ago, when the Syrian government first used chemical weapons against an innocent populace.
In each of these situations, empty threats caused catastrophe. Hitler remilitarized, launched World War II and perpetrated the greatest crime against humanity in recorded history. Saddam Hussein remilitarized despite sanctions, terrorized his people and brought the United States into another war in Iraq. Bashar al-Assad discovered that America’s red line was meaningless, and launched another chemical attack on civilians, bringing us to our current situation.
World peace depends on us keeping our word. Making empty threats leads our enemies to believe that they can get away with murder and oppression. Following through on our promises shows them that they cannot; action now stops future atrocities and limits the need for future action.
Beyond backing up our red lines, we support the declaration of these red lines in the first place. As the world’s super power, the United States has an obligation to its citizens and to the people of the world. Are we not still the country that promised to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty?" There is a reason that through our military spending, we front the defense budget for all of our allies. Despite foreign rhetoric to the contrary, when push comes to shove, the rest of the world turns to us in times of crisis.
In short, we are the leaders of the free world, whether we like it or not. And whether we like it or not, there are evil people out there and it is our moral responsibility to help stop them. Assad’s regime has demonstrated clearly and emphatically that tyrants exist who will brutalize, terrorize and murder innocent civilians unless stopped by force.
Thankfully, we can employ such force quickly, brutally and without putting American lives at risk. In his statement on the strikes, Secretary of Defense James Mattis reported that launching the 59 Tomahawk missiles took out 20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft. Without involving any ground troops, the United States prevented future chemical assaults, both by decreasing Syria’s present capacity to do so and by deterring future attacks. As Secretary of Defense Mattis pointed out, “the Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons.”
Resistance groups in Syria echoed the praise for the military response, saying that “the armed opposition welcomes any US intervention through surgical strikes that would deter the Assad regime’s capabilities to kill civilians.”
Many of us have clearly forgotten why we have a military. It is not to promote war, it is to prevent it. In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.” By exhibiting his willingness and capacity to forcefully punish a mass murderer, President Trump deterred future atrocities.
Therefore, critiques of the strike that warn against military entanglements are misguided, short sighted and ultimately false. These strikes neither constitute nor predict military intervention. This was a surgical bombing on strategic military assets that did not involve American ground troops. Furthermore, by disincentivizing future atrocities that would necessitate foreign intervention, the strikes actually reduce the probability that American troops get sent onto foreign soil.
The motto of the Strategic Air Command says it all: “Peace is our profession.” Ironic as it may seem at first glance, our military is a force for world peace. When we display it, our military strength cowers the criminal. Through its commitment to back up our threats, this administration has lessened the likelihood of future violence, be it American ground presence or a chemical attack against Syrian civilians.
TOE THE LINE examines issues from two different sides. Both Penn Democrats and Penn College Republicans argue why their collective positions on major political issues is best for the country.
MICHAEL BOGDANOS is a College freshman and a co-chair of the College Republicans Editorial Board.
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