Why the US Should Intervene in Syria

"We must have global vigilance. And never again must we be shy in the face of the evidence," former President Clinton proclaimed to survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. Yet, here we are again - at the crossroads of another human tragedy, this time in Syria. And yet again, Syria is tainted by failures in Iraq, just as Rwanda was shadowed by missteps in Somalia.

The country is different, the context is not exact, but the end results are still the same: the mass destruction of a large group of innocent people. This is why to me, the issue in question is not necessarily whether chemical weapons were used - though this is certainly significant - but what the intentions of Assad's regime is, what has happened thus far to the innocent, and what is likely to happen in the future.

We have all heard the arguments against intervention, including the blunders made in Iraq, the unknown reasonable likelihood of success of intervening, we-did-not-intervene-in-Congo-so why-should-we-intervene-in-Syria, and the need for global multilateral consensus, to name a few. Even hearing all the sound reasons "no," I still can't turn my back on the 110,000 who have died and the six million more who have fled their homes.

Working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon this past year, which is now home to the largest population of displaced Syrians, I have seen their suffering, I have heard their stories, I have held their hands. And, after bearing first-hand witness - from the survivors who were lucky enough to escape, anyway - I still believe that the strongest argument with US intervention is built on humanitarian grounds.

Military intervention should not be for punishment of Assad for the use of chemical weapons or the atrocities of the past two years. Its main purpose ought not be for sending a message to any other country planning to use weapons of mass destruction. It must not be used to show the US's prowess in the Middle East. If it is for any of those reasons, then the critics of President Obama's decision are right and we absolutely should not act.

Military intervention very much should be to stop the mass killings of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions - to stop crimes against humanity. It should be because conservative management has been tried for over two years - and has failed.

This hands-off approach was reasonable, given what happened in Iraq. "Diplomacy should be given a chance and peace given a chance," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But all that has happened is more horror and more tragedy. Yes, military force is never the first, nor is it ever the perfect answer. But in the case of Syria, it may be necessary.

The slippery slopes of military intervention are plenty. Will the US find itself entangled in the establishment of a new political order in Syria? Will the US have to intervene in every civil war in the world in the future? Will the US and other countries simply use humanitarian intervention as an ideological disguise for future exertions of power?

But while we continue to argue these points amongst ourselves, civilians continue to die in Syria. For every day spent trying to reconcile the inconsistencies of American foreign policy or fretting the lack of the perfect exit strategy or waiting for the consensus of other nations, is another day that the killings of innocent Syrian are allowed to continue.

We must remember that military intervention is not a solution - it is one action to stop crimes against humanity. It does not replace other forms of conflict resolution or peace-building strategies. I do not know what exactly that intervention would look like, but given what I've seen and heard amongst the Syrian refugees in just Lebanon alone, I do know what a non-intervention would look like.

Echoing Clinton's words, President Obama pledged "to foresee, prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities." Now in Syria may be the time and the place for the US to do just that - to speak up and act when the rest of the world fell silent and did nothing. This is not about chemical weapons. This is about humanity.