Many people have found the heartbreaking videos of the Syrian refugees in Aleppo to saddening and angering. The Syrian conflict has been going on since March 2011. It seems that the conflict will not come to an end anytime soon. The situation is Syria is hugely complex. The conflict itself has many sides in addition to the international ramifications that could lead to worldwide consequences. Russia has already thrown their weight around with air strikes called in by the Syrian President himself, Bashar Al-Assad. The conflict involves major powers like the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Denmark, Australia and of course the United States. It also involves archenemies like China and Russia. Its a very tense and dangerously unstable situation. In this post, I want to praise the Obama Administration for showing restraint and handling the situation in the proper way. A rare thing for me to do. I also want to discuss the pros and cons of military intervention. Its probably more accurate to say that I want to argue for a massive humanitarian effort.
To my surprise, President Obama has perfectly dealt with the Syrian Civil war. Although he did help create it by withdrawing troops out of Iraq. However, Obama cannot be blamed for the conflict, it was many years in the making. Assad’s father had re-written the constitution of Syria. He tried to move it toward a democratic government not so connected to Muslims. After his father died in 2000, Bashar took over. He opposed the Iraq war and US invasion. He promised democratic reforms but ultimately fail to implement them. This created the events that occurred in March 2011. The peaceful protest all over the middle east suddenly turned violent in Syria. Assad went to suppress the protesters with violence. This act only spurred more violence and the formation of the Free Syrian Army. By 2014, ISIS had joined the fight and then in 2015, Russia and Turkey joined the fray. All told about 470,000 people have lost their lives. As for President Obama, he chose not to intervene with full military force.
Similar to Russian efforts, President Obama opted for airstrikes against ISIS targets. I’m sure glad he didn’t go any further than that. President Obama is very much against the war in Syria but even he knows the military intervention would be dangerous option. Not even mentioning the coalition that it would bring and the international controversy but the causalities would probably quadruple. Syria is a bigger death than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We cannot afford another extended conflict. I want to praise Obama for his restraint because I think most President’s in his position might be tempted to intervene due to the human rights violations. I think the case against intervention is that of a humanitarian effort. We also can’t forget that there would be some major foreign policy implications.
Let’s say for argument that there was invasion plan on the table with the backing of Department of Defense and a UN coalition not including Russia and China who have problems. Like usual with any UN resolution it demands that the US front the bulk of the troops on the ground. They call it a peacekeeping force to keep Assad from murdering his own people. But everyone else knows its a suicide mission to eliminate ISIS. Russia has a problem because Syria is their ally. Syria is in the Russian sphere of influence. Assad had called Vladimir Putin for air support. China is opposed because it sees the US as trying to grab influence and oil. The invasion plan calls for 100,000 troops over the next year or so. It calls for increases as necessary with full air and navy support. This plan could incur up to a million causalities in total. It could double the causality rate especially for the Syrian civilian population.
There is another plan lingering among some of the other countries who don’t feel that all out military invasion is the route to go. Germany used to be in support but pulled out. (Truth) For argument sake, Germany proposes a plan of humanitarian support for Syria. After the last terrorist attack on the Christmas flea market they can’t stand for this human suffering and refugees any longer. The humanitarian plan includes donations of at least 100 million dollars in food and supplies for each country who joins. It includes a plan for small force to protect the distributors of the food and supplies. Germany thinks that if the United States joins then it could help keep the international tensions of Russia and China at bay.
The problem with the military intervention is that Russia won’t possibly stand for more influence in their sphere. Putin has already show a willingness to intervene if it means that Russia can take that influence. Just look at Crimea, there were many pro-Russia elements even though they were separate from Russia, Putin decided that military push to annex Crimea with pro-Russia elements could extend the Russia influence and strengthen it. The pros to an intervention are far and few in between. One pro might be the decimation of ISIS. However, ISIS has shown a willingness to move somewhere better and terrorists rarely ever stay put if they are being overwhelmingly attacked. It also a desired outcome of any terrorist to have the one of the most powerful nations come after them. It means they have power.
The cons of military intervention are those of death and destruction of the Syria society. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan dramatically change the lives of citizens. In an unforeseen turn of events, the Iraqis and Afghans have turned against the United States. The Syrians already find the US to be detestable because of their actions in the Iraq war. In a simple phrase, we have been in this situation before. However, I do think that doing nothing is not an option. The human rights violations call for action, but we can’t exacerbate an already violent situation with more violence. If a humanitarian plan is put forward either by Germany or any country it might be suggested that sanctions be issued against Syria. It might also encourage the elimination of allies trying to help fight. The more countries that join the fight, the more complicated it gets.
The humanitarian effort could save more lives. The humanitarian effort help the civilians who are stuck in the middle of this terrible conflict. According to the most recent numbers, the Syrian Civilian death toll is near 90,000. You can break it down, about 16,000 children, about 11,000 females over 18. The death toll is already too high, a military intervention could see these numbers triple. I haven’t even mention the refugees already created, approximately: 6 million refugees according to the UN. The controversy continues with these refugees about whether to accept them. Germany has already experienced what many are convinced of. The Christmas market tragedy. I believe the UN should set up a background check system to vet these refugees for admission to safety. The dangers of a terrorist slipping through are well known.
Another unanswered question is that of Genocide. (Not to end on a dark note) Under the Geneva Convention rules on Genocide it defines a genocide by:
“Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide. “
Has Assad and the Syrian Government committed genocide under the convention? Now I personally would have too look at who is being killed. We know the why. They were protesting for a democratic government, better economic conditions and the like. However, Syria has a rather large population of Muslim sects. This might need another post to cover. But it is a serious question to ask.
I want to wrap up this post on Syria with one last summary of perhaps a different of saying what I’ve already argued. The Syrian Civil war is a conflict that is extremely complicated and controversial. The conflict cannot be solved with war as evidenced by the past five years of fighting. The people of Syria are suffering the most from this prolonged conflict. The refusal of the UN countries to sufficiently act in a humanitarian effort is deplorable. However, a military intervention is not necessarily the best option in terms of the safety of the Syria people. As human beings, we have a duty to help those in need, those in suffering. We need to act to either bring help to those suffering in Syria or we need to figure out a way to sufficiently prevent terrorists from coming with those 6 million refugees to the United States and Europe alike. Humanitarian efforts keep the Syrian people safe and the international tensions at bay meanwhile a military intervention guarantees nothing but the antagonizing of the terrorist and America’s enemies.
Thanks for reading!