Syria: Reflections on Chemical Weapons Lecture and Recent Events

A couple of months ago I attended a lecture on the Syrian chemical weapons crisis of 2013. The lecture was given by a Colonel Cinnamon of the United States Air Force. It was primarily a military styled debriefing on the planning that had gone into the very immediate global response to the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria on 21 of August 2013.

From the beginning, it was obvious that a coalition to physical invade Syria and remove the weapons was not an option as such an invasion would likely be seen act against Russian interests. Despite this Russia had just as much interest in removing the chemical weapons from Syria as the U.S. did. Many (if not all) of the chemical weapons in Syria were either Russian engineered or Russian made. It was well understood, by all parties, that the use of these chemical weapons on Syrian civilians would look very bad for Russia on the international stage.

The innovative and highly successful removal and destruction of chemical weapons from Syrian was a performance boasting incredible efficiency and involving the participation of several nations. The Russians (with their ties to Syria) successfully removed the weapons from Syrian soil. Several different European countries helped with the successful transport of the weapons to an American ship, the Cap May, that had an on board hydrolysis neutralization system (the first of its kind).

This lecture was of course very interesting and surprising, at least to me, in several different ways. However, in light of the recent attacks in Paris it brings another question to my mind. The chemical weapons crisis in Syria took place over two years ago and still Syria is a hot zone for international issues. The problems with Syria two years ago brought together an international team to address a problem.

Today the problem isn’t so ‘simple’ as chemical weapons that must be taken care of. The problem is a social one; the ideologies of ISIS are not going to disappear with a little well planned intervention on behalf of the global community.

The problem with the refugees fleeing the country by the millions is not a simple issue to consider either. In the past weeks I have read numerous articles on the crisis; in the past day I have read even more linking the crisis to the ISIS attacks in Paris. Syria is in my news feed every morning, and it’s been that way for a while.

Although the new problems and challenges the international community face are numbingly complicated with no clear answer in sight, thinking back on this lecture I have a modicum of perhaps not hope, but optimism that some sort of answer can be reached.

If it is possible for several different nation with many varying interests to work together to prevent a greater humanitarian crisis through the destruction of chemical weapons then why would the same not be possible for the crisis today.

Unfortunately, it takes events like Paris to even bring up the topic of solidarity among nations. I think a fear that many have and few voice is what has to happen for an actual difference in the Syria crisis to be made.