Syria: What It Costs to Intervene

Katherine Muniz

By , Staff Writer
Posted on Tue Sep 10, 2013, Last Updated on Tue Sep 10, 2013

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Syria: What It Costs to Intervene

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In the aftermath of a series of chemical attacks, allegedly carried out by Syria’s government, resulted in the slaughter of 1,429 innocent civilians, including at least 400 children.

NATO allies of the U.S., such as France, Britain and Turkey, have called for action following an investigation by the U.N., which found that sarin gas, a toxic nerve agent, was the chemical used to take so many lives. However, the vigor expressed by these leaders has not been matched by their civilians, who have expressed a strong desire not to go to war.

In the U.S., Congress has authorized President Obama to take military action in Syria against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a move which Secretary of State John F. Kerry and President Obama say is vital to protecting America’s interests. With the nation split in terms of how we should deal with the crisis in Syria, the question on everyone’s mind is the cost that will come with intervening, or not.

The Fiscal Cost

Projections of the economic cost of intervening in Syria have been split, with one estimate projecting it will go into the millions, while another suggests billions. Here are the estimates given by those close to the situation:

  •  According to the Charmain of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, efforts to train, advise and assist the opposition, as well as conduct limited missile strikes, establish buffer zones, move across the border of Turkey or Jordan, and take control of Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile will cost billions, depending on how intricate the U.S.’s plans are.
  • According to U.S. Navy chief, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the cost of possible military strikes against Syria would not be “extraordinary,” citing that the punitive strikes would likely costs “tens of millions” of dollars, as opposed to billions, with many of the ships heading in the direction of Syria even prior to the recent attack.

A history of the budgets used to fund U.S. interventions show just how costly military action has been in the past:

  • The Korean War of 1950-1953 cost the U.S. $30 billion.
  • The Persian Gulf War, of 1990-1961 cost $61 billion.
  •  Perhaps the most famous U.S. intervention, the Vietnam War of 1961-1973 cost $111 billion, which has now been surpassed by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which totals $809 billion.

The Human Cost

  • According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the death toll stands at 110,371 people killed since the 29-month uprising, with at least 40,146 civilian fatalities.
  • Additionally, the group alleges that 21,850 rebels have been killed, and at least 27,654 army soldiers, 17,824 pro-regime militia, and 171 members of the Lebanese Shiite group, Hezbollah, on the regime side.
  • Lastly, 2,726 unidentified people were killed, in a civil war that sprung from a series of peaceful protests calling for regime change.

With those numbers, and fresh evidence that the Assad regime unleashed sarin on sleeping men, women, and children, resulting in the worst act of chemical warfare in the past 25 years, the United States has been left in a delicate position. The country is divided — do we deal with it? Or is this one fight we cannot afford?

Reasons to stay out of Syria

According to Gallup, those in favor of not taking military action mainly reject the possibility of going into Syria because they feel this civil war is not our business.

  • 24%: We should stay out of it.
  • 19%: The U.S. should stop policing the world and shouldn’t be involved in another war.
  • 10%: The military effort isn’t well planned out enough and the results won’t be worth the effort.

Other reasons for not wanting to get involved include: fear of retaliation, a desire to save the lives of loved ones in the military, and a desire to build up the economy.

In comparison to previous conflicts, the American people have shown the least amount of support for military action in Syria dating back to 1999, weighing in at 36% of the country, as opposed to 59% polled in February of 2003 for the war in Iraq, and 82% polled in October of 2001 for the war in Afghanistan.

Reasons the U.S. should intervene

Those who believe the U.S. should oppose the Syrian government, in part, wish to stop the violence before it gets out of hand and spreads to the entire region of Syria and potentially, the world.

In addressing the repercussions of not acting, President Obama argued that “the international community’s credibility is on the line. The moral thing to do is to not to stand by and do nothing.” Obama has stated that he believes the world has a duty to act, foreshadowing that a failure to do so will give those that do have chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, free license to use it on anyone.

Without an intervention by any of the major countries of the world, the cost will be severe for Syrian civilians and rebels, who have already been slaughtered by the thousands.

It seems as if entering into another war is the last thing people want, fearing for our struggling economy as well as retaliation from opposing countries, such as Russia — who are allied with Syria.

The U.S. must decide which outcome will be more costly, and whether or not we should intervene. What do you think? Leave us your comments or vote in our poll below.

 

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