The humanitarian crisis in Syria is heartbreaking, people from all over the world feel for the people in Syria, the refugees and especially for children suffering in this civil war. Many countries have also pledged their efforts to resolve this conflict and help the refugees. However, nothing seems to be improving as the war continues and the casualty rate remains steady. I argue that there are two ways, and two ways only, to deal with this crisis: stay out or fully invade Syria. Everything else is hypocrisy.
Current Western strategy for dealing with the Syrian crisis can be summed up into two general approaches: humanitarian aid (monetary and asylum) and limited military aid to selected armed forces in this war. It is safe to assume that humanitarian aid is literally just aid and it won’t stop the war. Syria’s population is about 23M and it’s hard to imagine the countries that will provide asylum in such magnitudes. Furthermore, such strategy bears the risk of this crisis expanding further into Iraq (33M people), Jordan (6.5M people) and on. So humanitarian aid, although helpful, is simply not a solution. Limited military aid sounds more promising, right? Well not really. In fact, not only that this strategy has not been effective so far, it hasn’t been effective many times before. The U.S has supported rebels in Libya only to realize later that its weapons are going to Jihadis’ hands, the West supported the anti-Soviet Afghan Mujahideen who later evolved into the Taliban and the U.S initially supported Saddam Hussein and we all know how that turned out. Recent Arab Spring turmoil in Egypt was embraced by the West who helped push Mubarak out only to have the Muslim Brotherhood democratically elected and end up supporting (once again) a dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. In fact, all of the Middle East’s current illnesses can be tracked to prior “limited intervention” by the west and especially the Sykes-Picot agreement after which Britain and France drew random borders and made local leaders of their choice with no real grip in reality.
In summary, the west has no clue who are the so called “good guys” in the Middle East, so providing support for a chosen group of “moderate pro-Western” rebels is risky and has proved wrong time and time again. And humanitarian aid, although important, is not a tool for solving this crisis.
It seems that one of two extremes needs to be chosen, either do nothing or take over.
As bad as it sounds, in the long term, doing nothing might actually be a successful strategy. If we see this current Syrian conflict as an episode of general Middle Eastern violence, then focusing only on the current crisis might provide a wrong perspective. Natural borders are shaped by natural patterns (mountains, water) and wars. Europe and America took hundreds of years and lots of blood to settle their borders. Nationalities in the Middle East never had the chance to do so as they were continuously ruled by various world and local empires (until the Sykes-Picot agreement). Perhaps a long lasting and stable solution can be achieved by simply letting go. Clearly this strategy, even if promising, will not only include tremendous bloodshed but also is dependent on the cooperation of other nations – such as Russia. If the West stays out but Russia intervenes this strategy will fail, and since Russia has its own strategic view of this area the likelihood is that it will continue to intervene even if the West won’t.
So why is taking over Syria is a good idea when the U.S only just recently left Iraq? Looking back at some of the West’s more successful world interventions a pattern arises. Post WWII Germany has seen continues military and monetary commitment from the allies for close to half a century, South Korea depends to this day on US defense and Japan is arguably as well. South Korea and Japan, though not directly controlled by the US for long, have been heavily reliant on US defense which arguably created cooperation and investment in areas of industry and trade. In other words, invading Syria and committing to invest in its defense and development for decades to come is a promising strategy. A true long term plan, commitment and physical presence to stabilize this region is the only viable way.
If you’re thinking about Iraq, then remember that the US had extensive presence in Iraq for only 8 years after which its sudden withdrawal resulted in major collapse in large portions of the country and a nice void for ISS to fill, so this is not exactly a commitment for decades to come.
If you’re worried about colonialism, then don’t since Syria is not really a nation and never was one. There is no Syrian people but rather a pure invention of the Sykes-Picot agreement. Also, it’s not like independent Syria is doing awesome right now, ISS or colonialism? I choose colonialism. And lastly, the intervention should also include a true commitment to leave once the country is rebuilt and stable.
The current Western indecisive and weak response doesn’t do much. The passionate and so called empathetic humanitarian commitments of the developed world are only a method of soothing people’s conscience. This void is being filled by Russia who, like it or not, is currently the only country committing itself to solving the Syrian conflict (their way of course).
The Western world has to choose, commit or let go. If the West truly cares, then truly commit to solving this crisis and take over. If it doesn’t, that’s understandable if you ask me as sending soldiers to fight someone else’s war is not an easy decision. But in that case, dear West, stop pretending you care enough to do something, stop the hypocrisy.