BLOOMINGTON — The likely negative effects of U.S. military intervention in Syria outweigh the possible benefit of standing against chemical weapons use, a panel of Illinois Wesleyan University professors agreed Tuesday.
Hours before President Barack Obama addressed the nation, history professor Mike Weis and political science professors William Munro, Ky Ajayi and James Simeone addressed the question “Should the United States intervene in Syria?” during a program at IWU’s Hansen Student Center.
“I can’t see too many good things coming out of an intervention,” said Weis, citing further destabilization of the region and the spread of civil war as possible consequences.
Other possibilities cited by the professors were retaliation by Syria or Iran against others in the region, such as Israel or anyone perceived to have helped the United States.
Yet, at the same time Israel is concerned about being targeted, Ajayi said, Israelis also will ask, “If the president draws a red line (in Syria) and there are no repercussions, what does that mean to the red line in Iran” on nuclear weapons?
Russia’s unexpected proposal to have Syria surrender control of its chemical weapons to avoid an attack was seen as a positive development, but not necessarily a solution.
“I look at this as a great thing that the Russians have done because I think it buys us time,” Weiss said. “Obama had painted himself into a corner that he couldn’t get out of.”
Ajayi said, “I think getting them (chemical weapons) out of their hands is a good first step rather than blowing them up.”
However, Ajayi said even if that plan moves forward, the United States should “keep the big stick” on Syria and make it clear to Syria that “we’re still going ahead with our planning to bomb the living bejeezus out of you” if it doesn’t comply.
Simeone said the president “has an ethical obligation” to stand up for the international norm against the use of chemical weapons but he fears people in Syria won’t understand what the United States is trying to accomplish, especially if it acts alone.
And getting the United Nations to approve military action is next to impossible because of the veto power of China and longtime Syrian ally Russia, Simeone and Munro said.
“The U.N. Security Council is a joke, as far as I’m concerned,” Simeone said. “It’s all about security, not about justice.”
Munro said the structure of the Security Council “paralyzes the United Nations from acting in this situation.”
But despite its weaknesses, Munro said, “the United Nations is what we have.”
Simeone hopes this situation highlights those weaknesses and becomes “a chance to fix this system.”
Ajayi said people in region are questioning the motives of the United States and others who have waited until now to act, wondering why “if you kill 10,000 with bullets, that’s OK, but if you kill 1,000 with chemical weapons, it’s not OK.”