What Will America’s Role In Syria’s Ever-Changing Tragic Conflict Be?

What Will America’s Role In Syria’s Ever-Changing Tragic Conflict Be?

Erich Reimer 03/05/2018 10

It almost seems like déjà vu. Like just around this time last year, Syria’s Assad government has apparently used chemical weapons on his own citizenry and civilians, leading to horrific casualties.

Just like then, the footage and pictures from the region are tragic and devastating. With roughly 70 people estimated killed and hundreds more affected, roughly equivalent to last year’s chemical attack toll, such an awful war crime has merited again widespread international condemnation amid the brutal Syrian conflict that has already taken the lives of an estimated almost 500,000 people the last few years.

Similarly, the United States has responded with missile strikes against Syrian military targets, with the hope to deter Assad while not entangling ourselves too deeply in the conflict.

However the situation is also different in several key aspects compared to the strikes last year. First is that while the missile strikes against Assad’s government in April 2017 were afterwards supported by a wide international groupranging from NATO and the EU to Turkey.

This time it appears however that France and the United Kingdom  were directly involved in the actual military operation itself, although the precise details are not clear. This indicates perhaps an increasing willingness among Western allies to take forceful military action in Syria, seeing that the initial round of missile strikes may have not sufficiently deterred, but only rather delayed, Assad.

Second is that the situation in Syria itself has changed. While there are still innumerable groups in the anarchic war-torn landscape, ISIS has almost been completely defeated since the latter part of last year and the fall of their main base of operations, Raqqa.

There appears to remain some ISIS remnants that the U.S. has announced it will continue to pursue, but the situation in Syria now appears to have become between Assad’s government, the Kurds, somewhat-democratic factions, and other more disorganized branches of extremists.

Though the strikes as a retaliatory measure appear to be relatively straightforward, they raise very complex policy, legal, and moral questions that have already erupted near-immediately afterwards.

First is that, as several members of Congress have noted in the media almost immediately after the strikes, is that we continue to see it as questionable whether the executive branch has the authority to engage in seemingly offensive actions as with the Syria missile strike.

Multiple Democratic Senators, ranging from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Cory Booker (D-MA), as well as a handful of Republicans such as Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), questioned not the rationale itself for punishing Assad’s government for their war crimes but rather emphasized the need for Congressional authorization for such military acts.

Ironically, the outrage from Democrats and relative agreement by Republicans mirrors the calls for President Barack Obama to seek military authorization from Congress when attempting to engage in airstrikes and other military action against ISIS and Assad’s government in 2014. 

Obama’s military authorization never even came to a vote, due to the complex controversies and intricacies surrounding the legislative decision-making process. Nonetheless, the bulk of military actions in the Middle East and worldwide in recent years have been justified by the executive branch as stemming from Congress’s military authorization passed after 9/11 in 2011.

From a policy and moral perspective as well, it is clear that the Syria situation has been extraordinarily destabilizing in recent years to other countries in the region, such as Iraq, and been used as a proxy conflict for actors such as Russia and Iran. It also has had wider international impact, such as creating the flow of millions of refugees to Europe which has, in turn, contributed in part to fomenting the rise of extreme right-wing groups into mainstream politics there.

On moral grounds however, it also increasingly appears that the free nations of the world have difficulty standing by while countless innocent civilians are slaughtered in horrifying and cruel ways. As the world learned in the wake of tragedies like Rwanda, inaction can lead to horrific consequences.

It remains to be seen how the Syria situation develops and what America’s role in it will be. If solutions were easy and clear, they would have been implemented already.

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  • Ryan Nobbs

    Brillant read. More than 465,000 Syrians have been killed. Enough is enough.

  • Dan Krilovs

    Foreign backing and open intervention have played a large role in Syria's civil war.

  • Courtney Sherratt

    Peace negotiations have been ongoing between the Syrian government and the opposition in order to achieve a military ceasefire and political transition in Syria, but the main sticking point has been the fate of Assad.

  • Jonathan Denby

    The war in Syria is causing profound effects beyond the country's borders.

  • Liam Bowron

    America needs to pull out of the Middle East and let Israel fight their own wars !!! Keep America out of the wars.

  • Michael Williamson

    No more war!

  • Garry Munro

    What a bad month this has been for Syria, I feel bad for them.

  • Bruce Cooter

    We should not be in the middle east we just want oil let Russia deal with Isis

  • Craig Thomas

    Poor Syria.....

  • Nick Samson

    Go out of syria !!

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Erich Reimer

Political Expert

Erich is a DC-based policy and public affairs strategist, entrepreneur, political/financial analyst, and columnist. He has spent well over a decade involved in the U.S political, business, government, legal, and non-profit sectors. He writes columns formedia outlets such as Fox News and The American Spectator and appears frequently on cable TV news. 

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