“Where does America stand?” This was the question former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice posed to the nation as she stood before the delegates of the Republican National Convention.
At a time when European nations struggle to stave off economic depressions and much of the Middle East is engulfed in turmoil, this is a question the American people deserve to have answered.
Unfortunately, Americans should not be proud of the answer. For the answer to this question is that America stands on the sidelines.
Yes, as State Department envoys come under attack and embassies burn, a bloody civil war in Syria drags on and Iran moves ever closer to possessing nuclear capabilities, America stands on the sidelines.
After 10 plus years of fighting two wars, it should come as no surprise that we as a nation are hesitant to get involved in other nation’s internal affairs.
Nonetheless, when a pre-meditated attack results in the death of US Ambassadors, like the one that ended the life of J. Christopher Stevens, our nation must do more.
Doing more doesn’t mean bringing in the full force of the US military to stabilize the region. More means vocally supporting the newly installed democratic governments that came out of Arab Spring.
In the wake of last week’s tragedies, which highlight the religious-secular tension in the Middle East, it’s clear now is the time for America to get off the sidelines and vocalize our support of the fledgling democracies in the region.
Support of these newly installed democratic governments shows that the United States stands for freedom and fairness and is willing to stand with those who chose to do the same.
And Syria is the place where that support must start.
Syria-a nation that has been in a state of chaos since its civil war broke out in the spring of 2011 following the violent suppression of protestors demanding the end of the Ba’ath Party-is a nation in need of international and American support.
Its civil war in its eighteenth month now has left 25,000 Syrians dead and another 250,000 Syrians displaced as refugees, as Syrian President Bashar al’ Assad clings to power. Begging the question, if not now, when?
Well, according to the Obama Administration’s self- professed red line, intervention in this conflict will not happen unless the Syrian government uses chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction on its own people.
While it is important to note that the president has taken a stand and vocalized his own assessment of the issue, it is also important to note that his stance signals to the Syrian government that everything short of using weapons of mass destruction on its own people is acceptable.
This is why several weeks ago in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian army rounded up and executed over 600 civilians.
These civilians were not executed because they were engaging directly in the fight against the Syrian government, but rather because they were believed to be aiding the rebels.
These 600 innocent men, women, and children are the reason why the United States and the international community have a moral obligation to get involved.
Still, the United States sits idly by because Russia and China have blocked resolutions proposed by the United Nations Security Council.
And while it would be nice to have the support of these two power players in the international community, the United States, the most important power player, can always act unilaterally.
If the United Nations chooses not to protect the interests of the Syrian people and help foster the spread of democracy, then that duty falls squarely on the shoulders of the United States.
The United States can and should ensure that this is a fair fight between the two sides, giving democracy a chance to thrive there before it is squashed by oppression.
As it stands now, this conflict is certainly far from being a fair fight. The Free Syrian Army (the rebels), using homemade weapons, is up against a modern army with a wide variety of weapons and technology at its disposal.
If this is however to be a fair fight-where innocent civilians aren’t subject to massacres and where the rebels have a chance to win-the Syrian Air Force must be neutralized and safe zones for the hundreds of thousands of refugees must be established.
This means enforcing a no fly zone, as French President Francois Hollande proposed, and establishing safe zones in rebel-held towns so that the some 4,000 new refugees a day do not become victims of government massacres should they be denied refuge in neighboring nations.
This also means stopping the Iranians from trafficking weapons into Syria over Iraqi airspace. Because when one side has a full-fledged army with modern military technology and additional military support of another fully industrialized nation, the result is anything but a fair fight for the rebels demanding democracy.
So as the Middle East struggles to decide which path it will take-freedom and democracy or oppression and violence-the United States cannot falter. No more standing on the sidelines. It’s time to lead.