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United States: Use patience in foreign affairs

Patience is a virtue. These four words are a part of American culture. Maybe that is easier to say and harder to believe in rush hour traffic or when you are waiting in the express line buying groceries. But, nonetheless, it is a phrase used again and again in American culture.

Patience needs to be re-examined by our society. Hardliners such as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are largely out of touch with the notion of patience. We have not completed rebuilding Afghanistan, and we are still fighting a war in Iraq, facing resistance throughout the country. And already, the war drums are beating for possible military action against Syria if it does not “decide what role it wants to play.”

According to Washington, Syria is providing ex-Iraqi leaders with a safe haven in its country. To take it a step further, it is accusing Syria of having chemical weapons and testing them. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer told CNN on April 14 that “Syria is a state that harbors terrorism.”

For the sake of world peace, stability in the Middle East, positive public opinion of the United States and an end to terrorism, the “blanket statement,” which does neither refute nor defend the use of military action against Syria, must be clarified and revised. Washington may see sending our troops into Syria as a convenient opportunity for two reasons: We are already mobilized for war in the region, and public opinion has mostly silenced antiwar sentiment with “support our troops.”

Isolating Syria and accusing the Syrian government of terrorism will only stir Syrian nationalism and fuel hatred for the United States and our troops who are currently in the region. Syrian nationalism and history stretch back to the Assyrian Empire which ruled the Middle East for generations. Syrian culture is proud and determined. Americans should not believe that a war with Syria will be a swift and successful “liberation” of Syria, as in Iraq, or that the people of Syria will welcome us with hugs and kisses. In addition, to the White House creating resentment among the Syrian masses, if we continue to consider war as an option, Arab public opinion of the United States will only grow more suspicious of U.S. intentions. The hawkish tone coming out of Washington this past week will only give support to the rumors circulating in Arab media that the “Zionist” West plans to conquer and convert the Middle East.

The Syrian Consulting Burueau cites that 52 percent of the nearly 17.2 million Syrians living in Syria are younger than 19 years. Approximately 17 percent of the population is between 20-29 years old. If we go to war with Syria or place sanctions on Damascus, as Colin Powell has proposed, are we willing to create an entire generation of Syrians bitter and hateful of us?

Fighting terrorism should not be a short term goal but an endeavor that will permanently stop giving ground for terrorists to flourish. We must find where the root of terrorism grows. Terrorism is not growing out of the teachings of the Quran, which governs the lives of millions of peaceful Muslims. Terrorism comes from terror. It lives in fear. It grows in hatred. Terrorism will never be stopped with more terror because. At best, that will only halt it temporarily and the goal should be to end terrorism permanently.

On Thursday, Syria proposed to the United Nations that the entire Middle East, including Israel, become a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, every Middle Eastern nation, including Syria, signed the 1970 U.N. Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty except Israel. This indicates attempts to build peace by the region. Whether these attempts are earnest is something the United States should discover with tolerance. Over time, the roots of terrorism can be contained if not eradicated with patience and dialogue. And yes, you guessed it, patience is a virtue worth heavy consideration.

Aya Batrawy is a junior majoring in mass