The U.S. is investigating accusations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own civilians to quell their uprisings. As ever there is no unified consensus, which has led to the Syrian government denying the U.S.’s accusations and “likening them to false accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.”
These Syrian officials attest that the U.S. would utilize such lies for an invasion similar to the Iraq invasion in 2004. It is true that U.S. officials have noted that if evidence surfaces confirming Syria’s use of chemical weapons then it would be a “game changer” and “all options [would then be] available.” The Syrian government fears that such tidbits foreshadow U.S. intervention.
However, the government of Syria has nothing to worry about. These are empty, backhanded threats. The Syrian-chemical weapons issue is more of a PR issue than anything else for the Obama administration. The U.S. must condemn the use of chemical weaponry against civilians, just as it must condemn President Assad for his heinous actions against the Syrian people. However, such statements will not lead to the U.S.’s provision of military support to the people of Syria.
The debate over the morality of U.S. intervention in Syria is academic, as in actuality, there will be no intervention. The Obama administration understands how unsavory of a time this is politically for any foreign intervention into the Muslim world. Coming off the heels of the Benghazi attacks, a controversial intervention in Libya, not to mention highly controversial wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and informally in Pakistan, America cannot afford, either economically or politically, to intervene.
Hegemony can be divided into two categories, hard and soft power. The American public no longer supports the utilization of U.S. hard power globally. They have seen past American excursions fail and now believe them to be unwise. The government knows it does not have the political capital to dominate the world with hard power anymore. Thus, they resort to a crude soft power-approach.
This is intervention on an abstract level, as there is no physical manifestation of the U.S.’s power. The United States lets the world know that it does not like it when Syria oppresses its people or uses chemical weapons. It thus creates a dichotomy of good and evil in the world. If it solidifies the image that Syria is bad, then it does not need to intervene because the rest of the world will reject Syria, making Syria powerless.
Though this soft power alternative seems less dangerous or problematic, its implementation is not so evident as that of a hard power approach. It would undoubtedly accelerate the process were the U.S. to intervene in Syria, but based on past experience it would likely cost them thousands of lives and dollars. The soft power approach is not as immediate, but can bring down President Assad eventually with enough support.
Therefore, those who seek a quick remedy to the injustice in Syria will likely not welcome the soft power approach. Nevertheless, given the political climate of America, the volatility of the Middle East, and the realities of a change in power we should voice our support for an American transition toward soft power approaches internationally. This is a shift that America has already begun to make, but it needs to sustain that effort in order to maintain its ability to dictate foreign affairs.