A plea for caution from The Spectrum
Students should question Putin’s motives
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 22:09
It is not bad that most of the UB students we have spoken to are concerned about and confused by the current conflict in Syria. It means they are aware of the many implications of the many possible outcomes that may arise from any of the possible courses of action.
But history may have something to do with it, too. UB’s history, that is.
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, as the Vietnam conflict was occurring, student protest was unavoidable at the university. There were riots happening frequently and police occupied the campus. Students were engaged, but it was induced by more than just ruminations and theory. They were thinking about their friends and peers, brothers and cousins.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have insured us that the proposed plan of military intervention does not include putting American troops on the ground. But Americans are weary, as they should be following the last conflict we became embroiled in, wondering what happens after we launch these missile strikes. What happens if the situation does escalate?
Though any draft is highly unlikely, college students should be concerned over the prospect of any military action – as it would be our contemporaries who would be involved.
Like UB students 40-plus years ago, this could potentially affect the person sitting next to you in class.
Last week, our paper endorsed the president’s proposal to launch punitive strikes against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons on its own civilians. The basis of our opinion is that the act of releasing sarin gas on people is a moral monstrosity and cannot be tolerated; action needs to be taken to deter the future use of chemical weapons and degrade Syria’s military capability.
On Tuesday, however, we saw a bizarre turn of events. Russia inserted itself in a new way: President Vladimir Putin made an offer to facilitate Syria’s turning over their stockpiles of poison gas to international control.
The prospect of a diplomatic solution is most appealing and we prefer to see conflicts resolved nonviolently. We think there is reason to be extremely skeptical of Putin’s proposal; it is certainly possible that this is to delay the plan of action President Obama presented to Congress and that it is all just a ruse.
As many have tried to downplay the potency of a series of punitive strikes, it is worth noting that just the threat of force has caused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to admit he has these weapons and to agree to surrender them.
It must be made clear that the use of chemical weapons will not go unpunished. It changes any perpetrator’s calculus before using them.
Unlike previous foreign calamities, like genocide in Rwanda or Kosovo, the incident has ended. The United States’ proposed intervention is not to stop an ongoing crisis; it is to punish something that has already happened and prevent it from happening again.
Even with all the uncertainty surrounding this most recent proposal from the Russian government, there is no reason President Obama and Congress should not seek it out.
There are potential ramifications, however. We don’t want Russia’s presence in the Middle East to expand – it is already somewhat a factor through political and economic support of Syria. More involvement may risk the country becoming a major factor.
Putin has been a tyrant. The antigay laws he has passed are unacceptable and he has been no advocate of human rights. He has not acted as an ally to the United States, which is one reason his motives here must be subject to questioning.
But that is exactly what it is time to do. We should sit back for a moment and really think this through.