Despite the protestations to the contrary, there is a solution to the Syrian Crisis that would showcase American Exceptionalism and provide relief for millions of refugees displaced by the bitter war in Syria.
For the better part of two years Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war. What began as a brutal crackdown on protesters descended into the ruthless slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians. Eventually, Assad’s brutal crackdown pushed his own populous over the edge and they revolted, turning against this cruel dictator and seeking their own freedom. Amidst this bloody turmoil, someone has unleashed chemical weapons and murdered nearly 1,500 people. It is alleged that Assad is the perpetrator of this attack, but that proof has yet to be presented to the general public.
As a result of chemical weapons being unleashed, a ‘Red Line’ has been crossed. We were offered two choices on Syria: to bomb or not to bomb. But Putin offered to have the chemical weapons removed from Syria, thus offering a graceful exit for President Obama to this foreign conundrum. However, the choices we are offered do not solve the real issue at hand, the deadly war being waged inside of Syria. Intervention in this war has no positive outcome for the United States.
We thoroughly condemn the Assad regime, yet cannot fully support the Syrian opposition because they have become so utterly riddled with Al Qaeda fighters that either arming the rebels or supporting them militarily is to provide de facto support for Al Qaeda. Thus, there exists NO positive solution through intervention. Yet, non-intervention seems callous and cruel, and harkens back to memories of the slaughters of Darfur, Kosovo, and the Sudan. We ache to help those truly in need, those truly impacted by the horrors of this awful war.
There is a solution to this terrible conundrum. It is predicated on non-intervention in the war itself yet offers a three part approach involving humanitarian aid, security, and a road forward. We suggest that the wrong answers have been sought to this crisis and offer this solution instead.
Step one involves providing humanitarian aid to the nearly 2 million refugees that have fled the borders of Syria seeking refuge in neighboring countries. That aid comes in the form of food, shelter, medicine, and clothing. There are already several health organizations in place providing support including Doctors without Borders, The Red Cross, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Our goal would be to support and supplement their efforts.
In addition we would provide shelter for those without any, clothing for those without proper gear to withstand the elements, and food for the refugees. Such an effort is already underway here in the United States. US Citizens of Syrian descent have been working hard to gather provisions to those in need. For example, in Houston, Texas a young lady by the name Najah Tibi and her father Ayham, have organized the filling and shipping of several shipping containers packed with food, medicine, and clothing to provide relief for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Step two is providing security for the relief efforts and refugees. If we have learned anything from our previous attempts to provide humanitarian aid, it’s that without adequate policing, such efforts descend into chaos, thereby sabotaging the good we were supposed to provide. I suggest we use the United States Marines for this. First, they are a security force, not a projection of force. All camps that are provided aid and security would be a minimum of 10km from the Syrian border. Each host country would be responsible for their own border security and because the Marines are in place, this frees their troops from duty in the camps and allows them to patrol the border as they should.
While the National Guard might be a more appropriate group to send, I suggest the Marines for one reason: their worldwide reputation. The US Marines are known as one of the fiercest combat units on the planet. Knowing this, many foreign nationals are reluctant to engage them, preferring other US forces instead. Use this reputation to its fullest and give the Marines very clear rules of engagement. They are not to fire unless fired upon. However, when returning fire, they should be allowed to respond with extreme prejudice. This fact should be made known to everyone. Thus, a fearsome reputation coupled with clear rules of engagement that protect the Marines and the refugees, would resolve many issues before they even occur.
Step three is a road forward for these refugees. No one wants to live in a camp for years, yet neither can these refugees return home. Sweden has already taken steps to welcome those that have fled Syria by providing them a path to citizenship in Sweden. While not ideal, these refugees can build a new life until such a time as it is safe to return to their homeland. So too should other countries reach out, including the United States, by screening those in the camps who wish to start over elsewhere while ensuring that those that might mean us harm are prevented from using our generosity as a conduit to those nations and wreaking havoc there.
Lastly, our aid and security should be limited to Turkey, Jordan, and parts of Iraq. While Lebanon borders Syria and has a substantial refugee presence, Hezbollah has a strong presence in the country along with strong ties to Iran. Rather than risk further confrontation that could easily escalate, we simply avoid it altogether.
In choosing this path, we prove to the world that we really are the humanitarians we so often claim to be but fail to prove. We provide four essentials to helpless refugees; food, shelter, medicine, and clothing to those in need and flex our humanitarian muscle that is often touted but rarely demonstrated so vividly. We provide adequate protection and security for those refugees and give our forces adequate protection by providing them with solid rules of engagement. We stay out of Syria and thus do not provide material aid to our enemy, whoever they may be. We prove we can be a global force for good without dropping a single bomb.
There are risks, to be certain, but we railed against genocide in Darfur and Kosovo and swore it would never happen again. We have to realize that it is happening again. We cannot stop it, but we can create a safe haven for people to flee to and protect them once they are there and in doing so, demonstrate American Exceptionalism to the globe in an entirely new way.