US and UN Intervention in the Syrian Conflict

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10th May 2019 International Relations Reference this

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There is an increasingly growing global controversy about whether the United States and UN should intervene in the Syrian conflict, and whether this intervention should be military or strategic. The U.S. has been criticized for its non-intervention policy, especially with the rise in the level of violence and the spread of conflict to other areas of the country, and even to its borders with Turkey and Iraq. It is time for this ‘cease fire’ of intervention to stop. The killings, the bombings and destruction within Syria haven’t stopped and likely won’t unless something is done to force its end. This conflict has gone from an internal struggle into an impending second Cold War of international interests, reasserting the tension between the U.S. and Russia. If this conflict is not brought to a halt, it will bring upon a domino effect of danger and economic problems that reach every corner of the world. It is in the United States’ best interest to increase the military aid to Syrian rebels in order to avoid immense financial implications and the prospect of a growing force of terror that could result without our intervention.

Upon reading this statement there is an immediate disapproval from many individuals stating we would be pushing a line between intervention and invasion. So, before supporting this argument, it’s important to note the possible cons to taking a direct militaristic path to Syrian aid.

America has always been viewed as the global ‘peace-keepers,’ and because of this we have made many friends and enemies. For the last fifty years, we have jumped into conflict after conflict believing that our nation would emerge as the victors due to prior victories from the Revolutionary War to WWII. To some, this mentality has led to a consistent underestimation of groups like al Qaeda, and the Taliban by politicians and citizens alike here in the United States. For this intervention to work, we must take it step-by-step or else we may find ourselves in way over our heads just like in Vietnam.

Something else that the United States must consider is the duration of this sustained conflict we may enter. Due to the sense of American exceptionalism held in our nation (that we are the greatest and most powerful country in the world), the civilian population may think war will be a quick “in and out” fight: America goes in, kicks ass, people love us, and then we go. In reality, we could be paying for an indirect war that could very well last for another 10 years, and even upon its completion, could cost billions more to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure in Syria.

That being said, isolationism or complacency could prove to be absolutely detrimental to the United States and the world. Without continued and increased militaristic involvement from the United States, two aspects of United States and world affairs will become extremely volatile.

The first of these two pieces involves avoiding the breaking-down of international war norms, and deterrence from further violence in the region. The most obvious benefit of ending the Syrian civil war is the prevention of the escalation of conflict across the Middle East and the deterrence involvement would create towards the use of chemical weapons. The Obama administration’s “don’t cross this line or else you’re in trouble” tactic did nothing to resolve the conflict and caused many countries, most importantly al-Assad’s Syrian regime to question whether we were just all talk. An immediate and unforgiving show of strength, leading to full destruction of Assad’s armies would immediately deter all other “states with aspirations to regional hegemony from contemplating expansion and dissuade U.S. partners from trying to solve security problems on their own in ways that would end up threatening other states” (Brooks and Wohlforth 2013). While many criticize U.S. outreach into other countries’ “business,” a lack of involvement in Syria could lead to a chain reactions of wars within the Middle East that could completely dismantle all resource and trade agreements the U.S. relies on from that region.

Additionally, the United States has a national security interest in ensuring that “when countries break international norms on chemical weapons they are held accountable” (Blanchard and Sharp 2013). Knowing full well that Syria is using chemical weapons on their citizens and enemies and doing nothing to stop it, opens up an entirely new chapter in the worldwide ‘book of war’. In a recent article published by SOFREP, a news network run by Special Ops veterans, the idea of chemical weapon adoption was discussed and the writer stated that, “There is undoubtedly utility in spanking a dictator if he uses chem[ical weapons] against his people. To not do so invites more of it, or worse, the acceptance of chemical weapons as a weapon of war” (SOFREP 2017). If we refuse to use force in showing complete disapproval of chemical weapon use, every other country that feels any desire to use chemical weapons will no longer feel any obligation to avoid using them. Leading to wars becoming even more violent and deadly than they already are. Although the U.S. faces no immediate domestic war, avoidance of keeping this war norm set, could eventually prove to be a very costly decision should any war erupt in our future.

The second most direct reason that it is in U.S interest to intervene in Syria, and highest of direct importance involves what would be the loss of a huge supplier of foreign oil and a huge blow to the U.S. global economy network resulting from the spread of ISIS control throughout the region.

Although there could already be too much damage to domestic Syria to ever rebuild a fully functioning sovereign state, the avoidance of such an effort would lead, almost certainly, to the following two catastrophic outcomes. The full collapse of Iraq and Syria and the long-term enshrinement of the Islamic State (Thanassis Boston Globe).

Terrorist networks like al-Qaeda and ISIS rely on discourse and conflict in unstable regions in order to implant their influence and control in that region. The ungoverned territory that would result from a governmental collapse of Syria and Iraq would provide said territory for these terrorist groups to operate. The collapse of the Syrian state and a severely weak Iraqi state have recently created the perfect vacuum for terrorists to fill as we saw in the Vice News movie documenting ISIS influence in the region. According to journalist Antoun Issa, “The consequences have been an expanded reach of terrorism that is frequently hitting Europe, and inspiring lone-wolf attacks in the United States” (Issa et al. 2016). In addition to this up-scaling of area from which to operate terrorist activity from, in an ungoverned state, these terrorist groups would have full control over the states’ oil fields and reserves. According to the Financial Times, these groups already have control over a huge portion of those reserves. “Isis’s main oil producing region is in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province, where production was somewhere between 34,000 to 40,000 barrels a day in October” (Financial Times 2017). It was reported that ISIS currently makes $1.5m a day off of oil smuggling alone, with full access to all of these states’ oil fields, ISIS could control an enormous amount of oil that the world depends on and could control where, when, and to who the oil is sent to.

Without a direct intervention from U.S. Military power, the United States economy and oil availability would begin to plummet and the future of our nation’s safety would be put wildly at risk.

Now that the factor regarding why involvement is necessary has been answered, it is necessary to continue deliberation about why and how militaristic intervention is the best path to take.

Developing a strategy for attack that encompasses main targets and pressure points while avoiding crossing the line from intervention into invasion by sending a full army is of utmost importance, or else the fabled ‘World War III’ could unravel into less of a fable.

A U.S.-led military campaign would require a select few detailed strategic points to build off of. First, the military would need to put civilian well-being as its highest interest to end the innocent death count which is already reaching the hundreds of thousands. In doing so, the military would promote a core political system where all people share and reserve certain rights that must always be kept. Next, weakening the Syrian government’s military forces would not only slow the damage being done to state itself, but would also begin to reintroduce norms of warfare by ‘curbing’ the al-Assad regime that is currently using chemical weaponry against its citizens. Finally, since completely destroying the al-Assad regime is not the goal, forming a balance between the rebels and newly forming government would be the target of this intervention. This would require the Syrian state to develop its own new governing body while still imposing the threat of military strikes or withholding of military aid to any party that aspires to outright victory rather than negotiated settlement.

 Building off the ideas that would encompass an effective intervention, it is important to note that many of the “minimalistic” ideas proposed by some critics opposed to full-scale military aid would have little effect on the stability of the region. The problem with these proposed minimalist intervention solutions involving the implementation of “no-fly zones” or “no kill” zones is that, in Syrian conditions, according to researcher Gareth Evans,  “full-scale warfare would almost certainly have been required to impose them: the minimum may entail something like the maximum” (Evans 2014). Basically meaning that by enforcing a measure used to prevent a war from breaking out, often ignites that war into fruition. Recently, Trump ordered the firing of 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian regime infrastructure. And although Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described this decision to retaliate as welcome, it was still not nearly enough. In an interview with The Washington Post, the prime minister stated, “If this intervention is limited only to an air base, if it does not continue and if we don’t remove the regime from heading Syria, then this would remain a cosmetic intervention” (Loveluck and Zakaria 2017). Slight and sporadic military strikes would be the same as doing absolutely nothing and would have no true effect on the outcome of the conflict.

For the U.S. to have an effective militaristic intervention that meets all the goals listed above, without it turning into an invasion in the eyes of the world, three strategies need to be continued and amplified.

First, the U.S. needs to continue its deployment of mobile bases of operation, in this instance, Navy fleets that can be stationed throughout the Persian Gulf (Lostumbo et al. 2013), allow for flexibility to respond rapidly to any situation at any time across a broad range of unpredictable events. So, if at any point additional ground troops or artillery assistance is needed, the aid is available quickly and efficiently.  

Currently in Syria and Iraq, there a few small Special Operations Forces teams deployed (Navy SEAL teams and Delta Force operators) to do small time raids against ISIS troops threatening neutral civilian populations and aid in the training of local troops. Recently, the U.S. military has drawn up early plans that would deploy up to 1,000 more troops into Syria in the coming weeks. Under this plan, “the added American forces would act primarily as advisers, offering expertise on bomb disposal and coordinating air support for the coalition of Kurds and Arabs” (Gibbons-Neff 2017). In February 2014, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper estimated the strength of the insurgency in Syria at “somewhere between 75,000 or 80,000 or up to 110,000 to 115,000” (Blanchard et al. 2014). With our military training being taught to this enormous force by a continually growing U.S. special forces presence being sent in to Syria, the rebellion will gain a HUGE (*said in exaggerated Trump voice*) advantage over the existing regime and terrorist fighting units. This making the war fought by Syrian rebels and aided by us rather than the other way around, saving both U.S. lives and money.

The final piece of military presence that would ensure continued cooperation and success is that of tactical air assaults against regime ground forces via drones and launches from the nearby mobile fleets. Such an operation would heavily shift the advantage in the rebellion’s direction in multiple ways. First, these precise and powerful air assaults run by U.S. forces would quickly eradicate any regime forces that posed any sort of threat to civilian or rebellion populations. And second, knowing that they could be targeted anywhere, anytime, regime soldiers’ morale would rapidly drop causing many to flee from the conflict altogether (Pollack 2013).

Knowing that involvement in this conflict will save countless lives and protect the future of our country, and having the plan of action to effectively carry out this intervention, it is absolutely in the best interest of the United States government to launch this calculated military plan into action. Successful U.S. intervention would represent a useful reassertion of American power and reinforce the notion that the breaking of international law will never go smoothly for any sovereign state or organization. “At worst, the Syrian crisis would be as problematic as it is today, but there would be fewer civilian casualties, and the United States would gain leverage with its allies on other matters because of its beefed-up engagement in Syria. At best, a more aggressive U.S. effort in Syria would limit Russian overreach, increase the likelihood of a political solution, and roll back some of the destabilizing regional consequences of the Syrian implosion” (Thanassis Century Foundation). The U.S. has so much to lose by playing the isolationist role, and so much to gain by directly aiding the Syrian resistance. Said best by John F. Kennedy, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

References

  • Blanchard, Christopher M., Carla E. Humud, and Mary Beth D. Nikitin. 2014. “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and US Response.” Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service.
  • Blanchard, Christopher M., and Jeremy M. Sharp. 2013. “Possible US Intervention in Syria: Issues for Congress.” Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service.
  • Brooks, Stephen, and William Wohlforth. 2013. “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement.” Foreign Affairs 92: 130.
  • Cambanis, Thanassis. 2016. “The Case for a More Robust U.S. Intervention in Syria.” The Century Foundation, October 5.https://tcf.org/content/report/the-case-for-a-more-robust-intervention-in-syria/ (April 20, 2017).
  • Cambanis, Thanassis. 2016. “Time for US to act in Syria – The Boston Globe.” Boston Globe, June 30. https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2016/06/29/time-for-act-syria/Fq0zwuxJUfLFDC7lDqWDIL/story.html (May 1, 2017).
  • Evans, Gareth. 2014. “The Consequences of Non-Intervention in Syria: Does the Responsibility to Protect Have a Future?.” Into the Eleventh Hour 19.
  • Gibbons-Neff, Thomas. 2017. “U.S. military likely to send as many as 1,000 more ground troops into Syria ahead of Raqqa offensive, officials say.” The Washington Post, March 15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/03/15/u-s-military-probably-sending-as-many-as-1000-more-ground-troops-into-syria-ahead-of-raqqa-offensive-officials-say/?utm_term=.c1e36ff79e90 (May 1, 2017).
  • Issa, Antoun et al. 2016. “Is War in Syria in America’s Interest?” The National Interest, October 13. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/war-syria-americas-interest-18037 (April 22, 2017).
  • Lostumbo, Michael J. et al. 2013. Overseas Basing of U.S. Military Forces: An Assessment of Relative Costs and Strategic Benefits. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.
  • Loveluck, Louisa, and Zakaria Zakaria. 2017. “Despite U.S. missile barrage, Syria continues airstrikes against rebels.” The Washington Post, April 8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/warplanes-return-to-syrian-town-devastated-by-chemical-attack/2017/04/08/38a5d8cc-1bdc-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html?utm_term=.0382582d5356 (April 27, 2017).
  • Pollack, Kenneth M. 2013. “Breaking the Stalemate: The Military Dynamics of the Syrian Civil War and Options for Limited US Intervention.” Middle East Memo 30: 2013.
  • Sofrep. 2017. “A case for intervention in Syria: Three reasons why we should intervene.” SOFREP News, April 11. https://sofrep.com/79041/case-intervention-syria-three-reasons-intervene-2/ (May 2, 2017).
  • “Syria Oil Map: The Journey of a Barrel of Isis Oil.” 2016. Financial Times, February 29. http://ig.ft.com/sites/2015/isis-oil/ (May 1, 2017).

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