Women. Power. Peace.

Georgia WAND’s Position on Syria

endtowarThe Obama administration has launched a full court press to win congressional backing for a U.S. attack on Syria based on President Obama’s red line against chemical weapons, despite a lack of public support. While we applaud Obama's efforts to go through Congress, we advocate that the US should pursue a "third way" of finding diplomatic course of action, not military violence nor inaction.

There’s no question that the loss of life from the use of chemical weapons in Syria is unacceptable, as is the loss of any life taken in the Syrian struggle from the use of conventional weapons, which has resulted an estimated 100,000 deaths over two and a half years, according the United Nations. The U.S. can mobilize the international community to condemn weapons of mass destruction and hold the perpetrators accountable. The massive scale of human tragedy and displacement makes it all the more clear that introducing a new element of violence is likely to only worsen the crisis.

“Protecting Syrians and against further loss of life and displacement does not necessitate military intervention,” Becky Rafter, Executive Director of Georgia WAND said. “President Obama has international policy alternatives, along with internal experts and bilateral partners. And if a way doesn’t exist for the U.S. to play a meaningful role in the conflict, then we must create one; one that is centered in the experiences of, and includes equal participation of, those most affected by the crisis—women, youth, survivors and the dispossessed.”

The people of Syria are not vehicles for geopolitical posturing between superpowers. If military action is taken, the Obama administration would be acting without the approval of Congress, support of the American public and the alignment of some of our strongest allies. We advocate for U.S. leadership to provide international leadership for a peaceful solution. Pursuing diplomacy entails bringing together all the relevant stakeholders, including Russia and Iran, but also necessarily include the protection and engagement of women in all negotiations.

As National WAND aptly points out in a statement put forth by their board, military actions taken without international consensus developed through UN channels could deepen rifts with Russia and its allies. This could make it harder to work towards a political solution in Syria and could also complicate U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Crucial international cooperation on key security issues –such as proliferation of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons – could also be hindered.

We must deal with the emergency in Syria, but we must also keep our eye on the bigger issues. Moving forward, a crucial element to building nonviolent legitimacy from a U.S. perspective is to address the hypocrisy and inconsistency in how the U.S. responds to international law and treaty violations, such as the use of chemical warfare, nuclear weapons testing and human rights abuses.

For example, we must not misuse the UN’s “Responsibility to Protect” mandate, which authorizes external military action if a state fails to protect its citizens from human rights abuses, such as genocide and war crimes. Instead, if we invest in more effective methods of prevention—which we could have begun over two years ago at the onset of the Syrian crisis—then we wouldn’t have to resort to military intervention.

As we increase humanitarian resources and support in the Middle East, we must simultaneously build the foundations to immediately make use of two points of strategic learning coming out the crisis in Syria—that the U.S. and world community must engage in difficult conversations about prevention much earlier; and that a necessary component of doing so successfully includes the U.S. addressing its sometimes hypocritical and often arbitrary enforcement of international policy.

 

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