In President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on Wednesday, Sept. 10, he reiterated what has become his mantra concerning U.S. involvement in the Syrian crisis: “No boots on the ground.”
To junior Joleen Wilhelm, whose second cousin Sean was recently deployed to Syria, the president seemed to be sending mixed signals.
“One minute he says, ‘No boots on the ground,’ but the next he says, we’re going to keep forces where they are,’ Wilhelm said.
According to Wilhelm, 18-year-old Sean found out that he would be going to Syria a few months ago. He received the news prior to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21. The event sparked outrage among the international community, as well as controversial threats of a military action from Obama.
Wilhelm said she doesn’t think Obama intends to have ground troops take action but that Sean’s deployment seems to indicate a strengthening U.S. presence in Syria.
Senior Gretchen Sutherland, whose brother, Brian, is a second lieutenant in the Army infantry, has also been following the developing Syrian conflict.
“Brian doesn’t think he’ll have to go to Syria, but it’s a possibility,” Sutherland said. “He thinks it’s more likely that we will use air strikes.”
A recent Gallup poll has shown that the majority of Americans are against any type of military involvement in Syria. The past couple weeks, this tension between Obama and public opinion has been felt in Congress.
“I would like (our representatives) to act as trustees more than delegates,” said political science professor Jeff VanDerWerff. “We have to trust them, knowing they’ll be privy to certain things.”
Capitol Hill isn’t the only place where people are wrestling with the question of what should be done about a regime that used Sarin to poison men, women and children in rebel controlled neighborhoods. Students across campus have also struggled to form an opinion on the complex issue.
“It’s definitely a very hostile situation, and I think it’s really complicated to say either way—whether we should get involved or not,” Wilhelm said. “I think we should get involved in some sense, whether that means military strike or not; I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right answer.”
A congressional vote on the strike in Syria is currently on hold. Obama explained that Russia, one of Syria’s closest allies, is attempting to persuade Syria to destroy its chemical weapons under international supervision. If diplomacy proves successful, it could obviate the need for military action.
To join in the Syrian crisis discussion, submit your questions or opinions to the Beacon.