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Responsibility to protect: Why intervention in Syria is our obligation

Euro News

Euro News

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16(NIV)

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
attributed to Edmund Burke(1729-1797)

Since the initial reports came out of Syria in late August of mass deaths in Damascus from exploding rockets spewing gas(analysis on the ground in Syria and through U.S. and U.N. sources indicate it is extremely lethal sarin nerve gas), debate has been loud and wide-spread on the appropriate response from the West. The argument has been especially heated in the United States on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Many are saying that we should not have no commit of U.S. forces, not even cruise missiles attacks on the purported Syrian government locations where satellite imaging indicates the barrages originated. The argument is that we have no stock in what happens there because the main combatants in the country’s civil war are: a dictatorial government which is no friend of the U.S. and rebels forces controlled by the jihadist group, Al-Qaeda, the group behind the 9-11 attacks (definitely not a U.S. friend). The argument is that no matter who wins, the U.S. loses.

I argue from a different perspective: the perspective of the 1400+ individuals(many of them civilian women and children non-combatants) killed in the attacks and those survivors whose health is damaged for life; the perspective that if the U.S. and the West have the courage to come to their aid by taking military action, it can offer a third alternative to the beleaguered peoples of Syria, a way to develop a democracy in that troubled land; the perspective that we have a moral obligation born of our own revolutionary beginnings and the principles of basic humanity which have developed since the trials at Nuremberg following WWII and especially since the genocides in the Balkans and Rwanda of the 1990s.

One of the great achievements of international politics and international law after the genocides of the 20th century was precisely the idea that the international community could not just ignore its responsibility, and should even take military action in extreme cases of mass atrocities. A number of years ago, the U.N. General Assembly endorsed this new principle, which limits national sovereignty as traditionally understood, as the “responsibility to protect

Without a doubt, this signified progress in terms of the modern Western understanding of human rights and international law. We see this in the trials of German and Japanese war leaders for their crimes against humanity and their other war crimes; we see it in the trials of those responsible for the genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans. We see that these trials were only possible after the civilized world came together through the double-edged sword of negotiation and military force to end the government-sanctioned mass murders.

The United States, especially, has an imperative to honor a commitment to this principle. It is a nation, in the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “…a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We recite in the Pledge of Allegiance, “…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Finally, these words from the very beginnings of our nation, “…we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is why intervention in Syria is the right course of action!


About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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