A Plea for Peace in Syria

Majid Rafizadeh knows the cost of war in Syria too deeply—that’s why he opposes an American intervention.

It began, in Damascus, with a gunshot that robbed my uncle of his life. The innocence was ripped from the wide and startled eyes of my 4r-year-old cousin, who witnessed what hatred could cause, and then helplessly received the second bullet to her tiny chest. Luckily she survived, but she would never be the same, nor would our family. Her father was just one of several apolitical family members who lost their lives in the battle between President Bashar al-Assad's police state and the fractured rebel and oppositional groups. My family scattered in pursuit of refuge, and were predominantly displaced inside Syria or had to live as refugees in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan.

After witnessing this destruction, along with thousands of other Syrian families, the question arises: Should the U.S. use military force to halt the violence and use of chemical weapons?

I could not long more deeply for the bloodshed, and the chaos, to finally cease, but I can't lose sight of the truth as a result of my desperation. The crisis of the Syrian conflict, now entering its third year, can't be resolved by the U.S. wielding military force—due to several reasons.

The moment that the U.S. becomes militarily involved in the Syrian conflict, it will signal to any other states that have a geopolitical, economic, or security stake in Syria to increase their military involvement as well. Pro-Assad countries and groups (such as Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, and China) as well as the pro-rebel actors (such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait) would use a U.S. military intervention as an excuse to intensify their influence on Syria. This will turn Syria into a Somalia-like failed state and a battleground for a proxy war.

The Syrian crisis is not solely a domestic conflict, and as such cannot be resolved by the use of a single country's military force. This conflict is domestic, regional, and international. Instigating military involvement without considering these issues is nothing more than a short-sighted action.

Domestically, there is infighting between several rebel factions—both secular and Islamist—all while these groups are also actively combating Assad's government. Beyond Syria, the Shiite-Sunni cold war between Iran and the Gulf Arab states only adds to the complexity of the crisis. Even internationally a stalemate has been created by the struggle to tip the balance of power between the United States, Russia, and the United Nations Security Council. This further highlights the intricacies of the Syrian conflict.

The most fundamental reason for the U.S. not to intervene militarily is the message it would send to the Islamists who are waiting for an additional ideological opportunity to turn the Syrian uprising into a battle not only against Assad's government but also against “imperialism” and “modern colonialism.”

Nevertheless, a major power such as the U.S. can wield a powerful impact through other means. By mobilizing the international community to focus on the basic human needs of refugees who had been displaced within Syria without shelter or food, many lives will be saved. The United States can also intensify its pursuit of solving the Syrian crisis diplomatically.

A street called Share Alyahood was once a refuge for my entire family. It was place where cousins could play, and parents could discuss the future comfortably in the security of a small neighborhood. On that street in Old Damascus we had our own place. When the unrest in Syria boiled over, it stole many people's realities, including ours.

My mother, whose poor health leaves her trapped within Syria, inspires the desire in me for the use of military force. However, the crisis in Syria is not about one mother—it's about millions of mothers. The use of military force is not always the best strategy for putting an end to bloodshed. The Syrian conflict began with the spilling of blood, and it begs to be ended with a political solution.