It looks like the sides have been drawn up on the Syria debate, with some surprises as to who supports what this time, but mostly along the same familiar lines. The nature of the argument, predictably, has come down to either ignoring the lessons of WWII or cheerleading for WWIII. So which is it?
I have to admit, I'm no isolationist. There are times, when even though not in the immediate interests of the United States, I believe force is justified. There are many times we should have stood up against genocide or mass murder and did not. Perhaps this is one of those times.
On the other hand, I don't support the United States acting unilaterally as the world's protector, either. The US is powerful but it is not omnipotent, nor is it all wise. We have made more mistakes than not when acting as the policeman for the world and these mistakes have made us less secure, not moreso. In the short term interests of business, we have propped up dictators against democracies and supported fascists against the will of the people. We have destroyed nations by using them as pawns in our own power struggles and built them for no purpose other than profits. Perhaps it is the nature of a relatively young country that it have difficulties in understanding the long term ramifications of action, but perhaps it is also time we grew up.
Whether one leans toward the isolationist or the policeman, entering a volatile conflict such as Syria is a disaster waiting to happen unless we have the support of the world behind us. We cannot go again into the Middle-East and expect that we will suffer no reprisals from other nations. Russia is already making threats and China is likely to follow suit if it's rulers see a weakness in US hegemony. As the UK has voted against action and France is mentioning diplomacy more than direct action, it is easy to believe that such may be the case.
Something else, other than strict isolationism or rampant assertions of military might, is necessary if we are to actually resolve the problem in Syria. And that something else is now on the lips of a majority of world leaders: diplomacy. Regardless of the atrocities being committed (and the question of exactly who is responsible for these atrocities is still not answered), going into Syria without the backing of the world community will only create a vacuum of power which will be filled by the largest non-governmental power in the region, militant Islamic extremists. This is what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya so why do we believe this time will be different?
Assad is a horrible dictator who has little regard for his people, but we've yet to see anything from the rebels that makes them any better. As with Afghanistan and Libya, we will likely exchange a dictator who enforces cruel laws with dictators who enforce even harsher laws. We will again be the agents of oppression in the name of Democracy.
So before we invade with boots on the ground or strategically bomb cities, why don't we try something else?