The longstanding civil war in Syria between Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces, which has featured chemical weapon attacks, ISIS participation, and Russian involvement, continues to draw in external actors. In light of the U.S. response, however, critical questions remain as to the extent of American (and indeed, global) involvement in the region.

Such questions each hold validity. Is the United States pursuing any “valid” interest in the region? What should be the extent of such involvement? What will the consequences of American involvement be? Will these strikes escalate the conflict in Syria beyond Syria’s internal unrest?

Practically speaking, American interests in Syria are limited. Realistically speaking, Syria is a proxy conflict with a variety of actors vying for power within Syria and backed by a foreign power. It’s an ugly characterization – however, the realistic nature of geopolitics is that external players have an interest in how volatile events play out, particularly in the Middle East.

While the gas attacks against civilians are heinous, it’s important to note that the notion of benevolent intervention on this premise alone, although idealistically pure, is less compelling than an argument regarding power brokerage in the region. Simply stated, the idea of a humanitarian bombing is a contradiction despite aligning with Western principles.

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