12 thoughts on “Honors World Regional Blog Post #4

  1. It just so happens that I finished reading a very interesting article titled The Obama Doctrine in The Atlantic right before examining this blog. In that article, Syria is discussed at length in relation to its current situation and how it may have been circumvented by the powers that be in United States, or perhaps how it was realistically out of American control. At any rate, Syria is an example of a low point of human history. While exact figures are at best educated guesses and at worst completely inaccurate, somewhere around 500,000 people have died. Millions upon millions more have been displaced, within Syria and abroad. Countless others have been injured, mentally and physically, from the conflict. From some figures I’ve seen, nearly as much as half the country is gone. Trying to fathom nearly 50% of an entire country disappearing is difficult at best. Massacre upon massacre, war crime upon war crime, and senseless violence upon violence: the Syrian crisis is a grotesque conflict that has so devolved it seems largely unwinnable. Many have written off an effective solution as impossible. Certainly, the proposed solutions thus far provide murky light by even the most positive perspectives. In The Obama Doctrine the author made point to examine whether or not preemptive action could have been taken, particularly against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He especially wanted to focus on the “red-line” that Obama had drawn in the sand regarding chemical weapon usage, and the subsequent lack of direct military action by the Obama administration when it was crossed. Critics pointed to this as a pivotal point which pushed Syria over the brink and into the abyss. President Obama, however, sees the matter in a different light. He believes the extent that American power is able to be projected in the region is limited without causing further harm. At the very least, he believes it would further overextend the United States by sparking another war without finishing its first two. He also points to Libya as an example where American and European power was calculated and very carefully applied, and yet the situation still devolved into madness. Simultaneously, he acknowledges that the United States is the world’s leader, affecting the most change (for better or worse) across the world with greater force than any other nation. Thus, we cannot isolate ourselves. Rather, he believes we should take more of pragmatic approach, picking and choosing our battles where we can affect the most good with the least cost to ourselves, particularly when it comes to putting our men and women in harm’s way. Overall, I find myself tending to agree with the President. While it is most certainly true that to whom much is given, much is expected, the United States does have its limits. We cannot put out every fire in world, cannot fix every broken region. As powerful and influential as we are, it just is not possible. There have most certainly been situations where we inserted our help where it was not necessarily welcome. In other cases, our mistakes when offering help have morphed the situation to arguably worse conditions. I do, however, disagree with the President with regards to preemptive action towards Bashar al-Assad. Early on we could have leveraged our power against him in way that would have weakened his forces enough that they would be unable to resist the original, non-radical rebels. Airstrikes against regime targets, surgical raids by special operations forces on terrorists and chemical weapon facilities, naval and air quarantines as well as substantially increased assistance to refugees would have worked against al-Assad. Our failure to provide any of these in the beginning of the conflict, most especially after chemical weapon usage, compounded Syria’s misery. Frankly our inaction allowed both ISIS (and its global supporters) and Russia to become more heavily involved, which later would hamstring our too-little, too-late efforts to ameliorate the situation. At this point, I am in the “no solution is a good solution” camp. The way I see it, we are now forced to choose among varying degrees of bad options. In my opinion, the Syrian Civil War will now dabble on to a bitter end with one side or another eventually being totally ground out of existence. Only then will we find ourselves with better options to provide systematic, positive solutions to whatever crises will remain once a victor emerges.

  2. The Syrian Civil War/Crisis has posed quite a conundrum for the United States, much like our involvement Libya did back in 2011, but evoked a different action from the U.S., to what appears to be a similar result. Not to say that the death toll in Syria isn’t higher. It is. That and there were other factors that led to the U.S. involvement in Libya vs. our relative non-involvement in Syria. For instance, the number of allies. Ghaddafi didn’t have many international allies…Bashar Al-Assad has several, most notably Russia, Iran, China, and a few non-state actors like Hezbollah. Additionally, the situation inside Syria in 2011 was drastically different than that of 2011 Libya. Al-Assad is an Alawite, or member of a Shiite offshoot minority, while a majority of the country was Sunni Arab. Also there are the Kurds to the North, and the Arab Christian and Druze populations which made intervention in Syria vastly more complicated for the United States than an intervention in Libya (which, admittedly, appears to not have done much to change the situation except perhaps lower the projected body count).
    At this stage in the game, I’m not sure the United States can do anything to genuinely assist the situation in Syria without causing more harm. Perhaps it was possible to have done so before the situation got out of hand. Before DAESH became such a powerful player & before Russia began making power grabs in the region, it might have been possible. That’s not to say that the United States should sit by & do nothing. I don’t agree with that non-solution. One of the best ways I believe the U.S. can help is to try to alleviate the strains that refugees are placing on Syria’s neighboring countries. While many of the neighboring states have taken in vast amounts of refugees, Lebanon and Jordan in particular are struggling under the strain that the refugee population has placed on its services. For instance, education is not as great as it needs to be. Providing adequate housing/shelter to refugees has become increasingly more difficult. Food for many in refugee camps or settlements is also becoming more difficult to fund. Winters are cold & the conditions worsen for refugees during this time. Financial aid to those countries or to our NGOs that are present could help alleviate that burden. Perhaps the U.S. could take in more than the allocated 80,000 Syrian refugees (granted, Secretary Kerry has increased the amount for 2017 to 100,000, but knowing U.S. politics, who knows what will happen there). Given domestic political considerations, it seems unlikely that that will be what the U.S. government decides to do to alleviate the refugee crisis that is stemming from the Syrian Civil war. Or we can show support for our European allies who have agreed to take in refugees, once again by giving financial support.
    Of course, the United States needs to figure out its policy stance toward Syria, and relatively soon. As we mentioned in class, an Alawite genocide isn’t a pleasant outcome for a civil war, but one that looks increasingly possible given the correct outcome. I’m not sure a policy couched in diplomatic language and old fashioned strong-arming will be great enough to make much of a real change. That being said, having the U.S. become completely involved in another conflict that it can’t manage to get itself out of without further destabilizing the country isn’t an ideal outcome either. Like I said, the Syrian Crisis is quite a conundrum, but I believe that assisting refugees is a great place to start.

  3. I remember watching a BBC interview recently with Assad and the interviewer asked him, “Is Syria a failed state?” and he responded by saying, “No, absolutely not. As long as we hold the support of the Syrian people, Syria will never fail.” So I’m sure the delusions of grandeur may be overwhelming for Mr. Assad at times, but losing territory to over five different factions sounds like a failed state to me. But speaking of said factions, it is interesting to note the amount of foreign fighters in Syria. Referring to this map (http://nawaat.org/portail/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/foreign-fighters-in-syria-tunisia.jpg), we can see that most of them are coming from Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, but then a very significant amount are coming from Russia (mostly Dagestan/Chechnya/Circassia area – AKA: the Islamic part of Russia by proportion of followers). After some previous digging into the subject, actually most of the Russian fighters and the fighters from the Central Asian Republics are fighting for Jabhat al-Nusra rather Daesh, a branch-off of al-Qaeda. Also I believe it was Tajikistan’s Police Chief, Gulmorod Khalimov, who disappeared from the country and then reappeared in a Daesh video saying that he is ready to take on the American scum (he obtained his training in Louisiana). See more here:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/28/tajikistan-police-chief-defects-to-isis

    But foreign fighters aside, I want to mention the recent talks about a Syria becoming a federation. What would this mean? The Kurds are definitely on board, and have been advocating a lot recently. See more here: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/syrian-kurds-planning-declare-federalism-160316091206786.html
    But as of today (March 16th), the Kurds have announced that they will be taking steps to move to a federalist system, despite being left out of the Syrian Peace Talks in Geneva. This has also been seen by Turkey as a mildly threatening move, but at the same time, when has Kurdish presence or autonomy near Turkey’s eastern border not been seen by the Turkish government as threatening? But going back to Syria as a federalist system, this could be seen as positive for the Alawite minority, as they are legitimately threatened by the idea of extinction. Giving the Alawites a small state within the Syrian federation could be a possible solution to attempt to “guarantee” their protection in peace talks, therefore possibly allow Assad to go for it. But there are legitimate problems in developing a federation, and if the borders for these small states are not drawn properly, Syrian federal states could very well continue a chain of conflict with each other over territory, or even allow Kurds to have a base from which they can expand their territory as a unified Kurdistan, attempting to gain more independence from Iraq and unify with Syria’s prospective Kurdish region.
    Map of Kurdish Population Distribution: http://orig13.deviantart.net/3673/f/2015/359/f/d/kurds_distribution_in_middle_east_by_vah_vah-d9leqrv.png

    The refugee crisis and Syrian infrastructure collapse is also a critical issue. How will Syria be rebuilt after the war is over, or can it be rebuilt? Would the many refugees in exile return? I’ve been wondering if the same situation as what happened in Iraq – when the U.S. hired Halliburton for Iraq’s reconstruction instead of Iraqi workers who could have done it cheaper and could have lowered Iraq’s massive unemployment rate drastically – could happen in Syria, where the western superpowers overseeing Syria’s reconstruction employ expats to rebuild Syria at a higher cost and place Syria into a really horrible economic situation. Would Syria’s economic state be at all incentivizing for returning to for refugees? My guess would be that some refugees would return upon Syria undergoing some level of reconstruction and organization, but many who reached Europe, Canada, or the U.S. would remain in their current location. Refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan could be encouraged to return to Syria due to the pressure that refugee populations are placing on their economies (Fiona, is that legal for these countries to do?). But I have a feeling that many Syrians in exile, even in places like the U.S., Canada, and Europe, will return to Syria as it is their homeland, but they must feel the conditions are safe and will remain so indefinitely. On the other hand, if western overseers employ Syrians to rebuild Syria and utilize Syria’s large workforce, Syria’s economy could do much better as a result and may be more prospective to return to. We’ll see in the coming months I suppose…

  4. Crisis in Syria
    In 2011 Syrians began demonstrations to protest President Assad and call for better elections. Assad’s regime met the protests with violence. This cycle continued and finally the protesters armed themselves. This led to civil war. The drought, poverty, and political unrest over the last five years made Syria a perfect storm for war. The war is between the current dictatorship of Assad under the guise of democracy and the extremism of terrorists under the guise of freedom. The war is three sided because moderate Syrians are stuck in the middle. America and NATO sides with “democratic” Assad fighting to disband the rebels, but most of the hundreds of thousands killed are civilians caught in the crossfire.
    Is siding with Assad the best option? Can he win? I don’t think so. Assad destroys cities and displaces millions to maintain control, but now he rules over empty burning ruins as his army spreads thinner. I do not believe fighting for Assad is what NATO should be doing. We should be protecting people, real tangible lives, not the idea of democracy. We must fight to stop extremists rather than fight for Assad. We must ask ourselves what is best for the future of the Syrian people and their country.
    As the alawite thugs battle with Assad’s government conditions worsen. Over 11 million Sryians have been displaced either inside or outside of the country. With a total prewar population of 23 million, this is a substantial amount of displacement. 1 in 5 people in Lebanon is a displaced Syrian. Over 250,000 Syrians are dead after 5 years of fighting. Chemical weapons have been used, severe civilian area bombing have taken place from both sides of the war. The UK, US, and Russia have all given military aid to Syria. Mostly in the form of air strikes on rebel and ISIS held territory.
    The nearly 5 million refugees fleeing the country have flooded Asia Minor and Europe. As they run, jump, swim, and crawl their way to freedom, I believe we should do everything we can to help them. They are people with families, with hopes, with dreams. They have lost everything and sacrificed life itself to leave their home. That cannot be an easy thing. I believe we should accept them and aid them. I hope that if the roles were switched and I was a refugee, the world would take me in and defend me rather than fighting about rather or not I’m dangerous. I hope that human life and freedom will always be more important that religious differences or government.

  5. Syrian Crisis
    In 2011, the region of MENA was shaken to its core by the Arab spring, a region wide series of demonstrations claiming for change in the governments across the region. While in some countries said demonstrations were peaceful and did obtain minimal or moderate change in their governments, this was not the case in Syria. In Syria demonstration’s against the Assad regime turned violent when the government used the armed forces to disband the demonstrations; and it was this brutal repression (as well as alleged foreign backing) what led to rebel groups to formed, and for a full blown civil conflict to spread across the nation. For the first couple years of the war, the conflict reassembled any other civil conflict, with the government on one side fighting against rebel forces; yet all this changed all this changed in 2014, with the fragmentation of the rebel group’s intro different factions, as well as the introduction to the conflict of Kurdish rebels and ISIL. This fragmentation led to a four front war, that has ravaged the country, and has even spillover to neighboring Iraq, and to a lesser extent Turkey and Israel. Yet the most worrisome of this faction’s is ISIL, as their brutality and goals, have raised concerned globally, and have led to international air strikes and military interventions against them, which have in turned complicated the already complex situation of the war, leading to the further destabilization of the Syrian government, leading the global community to regard Syria as a failed state. While the global community have been unified in their actions against ISIL, the world is deeply divided in what to do about this conflict, especially with the world powers opposing different sides of the conflict. On one side the Russians and to a lesser extent the Chinese have supported the Assad regime since the beginning of the conflict, as Syria is one of the main allies of Russia in the region, and even has the last foreign military base of the Russian army. On the other side the Western powers have opposed the Assad regime by supporting the rebels; yet the fragmentation of some rebels groups into ISIL, has made the Western powers reconsider their positions in the matter, while remaining adamant to not agree with Russia in how to deal with Assad. Finally the Kurds and their fight for an independent republic have found new international backing as most of NATO have started supporting the Kurds against the extremist, yet the Turkish government is adamant in their opposition against the Kurds creating a friction with the rest of the members. Allegations that the Turkish government has been covertly supported ISIL in order to obtain oil, has further created tension between NATO, thus leading to a lack of a strong intervention from western powers.
    The Syrian refuge crisis which has led to millions of Syrians flooding into Western Europe have led to an international crisis, as the world is divided in the issue of how to deal with the refuges, as the fear that extremist might hide among the refuges have sent the world into a panic, yet I strongly believe that if the conflict is to ever be resolved we must help this people and find a common agreement between the world powers to finally get rid of ISIL and stop the war.

  6. The Syrian Crisis is under the spotlight right now in the media, which means many Americans have an opinion about if and how the U.S. should intervene. The current situation in Syria is messy at best. With four groups fighting for territory, and nobody looking to work together, Syria is tattered. Civil war has left many cities like the one pictured desolate. Masses of people are finding their homes either destroyed or taken over by one of the groups, leaving massive amounts of people in search of refuge. As if that weren’t enough, these people, who carry everything that’s precious to them for miles and miles towards hopefully a peaceful place to stay, are labeled, to westerners, and especially Americans, as highly dangerous because they happen to all look like the terrorists. It turns out Americans cannot tell the difference between a refugee and a terrorist because they have the same color of skin, so they play it safe and help no one. Finding a place for the millions of displaced people is only a bandage, though, on the problem because without some sort of resolution in Syria, there will be a continuous and heavy flow of refugees. How to solve the crisis is the matter of just as many, if not more, opinions than about refugees. Pretty much everyone agrees that Daesh is bad; Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian Rebels, and the Kurds all want to get rid of the “Islamic State,” but each one of them wants to be in charge once Daesh is gone, so obviously they can’t work together to abolish Daesh. The United States has been backing the Syrian Rebels because we don’t like the way Assad runs Syria. However, the question is if the U.S. backing the rebels is only crippling the strength of the fight against Daesh. Should we just work with Assad until Daesh is gone and then get back to ousting him? Many think that is the best choice. However, in their ever helpful fashion, Russia has jumped in the mix by supporting Assad, and while they have recently backed off from intervening on Assad’s behalf, Russia still has great influence in this fight. The simplest and most logical answer to me is to work together, and put aside our disagreements with the Syrian President, in an effort to accomplish the greater goal of defeating Daesh which poses a great and growing threat to everyone who does not support them. But I cannot begin to claim that I fully understand the reasons the U.S. is backing the Rebels, or comprehend the deep tension and relationships between the many establishments with hands in this fight. I do know that Assad is not helping his case by putting his face on plags and sporting a Hitler-esque mustache.

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