Q&A: What will happen in Syria?

Q: What is the U.S. LIKELY to do in Syria? (not what you think they should do, but what you think they actually will do and why.) 
 
Best,
Jenny 🙂
 
A: Well Jenny, that’s a very interesting question, but I will try my best to get into the minds of our countries leaders without clouding that too much by my own bias.
 
Before we attempt to figure out how the US will respond in the future we must consider what has already happened. 
 
The Syrian conflict stems all the way back to to Arab Spring of a year ago. During that Arab Spring, an uprising, very similar to the one we currently see in Syria, was taking place in Libya. When the rebels in Lybia rose up against the repressive regime, the United States decided to intervene. The US Navy and Air Force played pivotal roles in limiting the Libyan government’s ability to put down the uprisings. Eventually the uprisings succeeded and the government was replaced. That set a precedent.
 
The Syrians saw what was happening and wanted their own freedom. The Syrian civil war began and the government has been relentless in their attempts to silence the opposition. Tens of thousands of Syrian militant separatists and civilians have died. Because of the precedent that was set in Libya, Syrians have asked the question, “What about us? Why isn’t anyone helping us?” To make the situation even more tricky, there have been reports that Al Qaeda has begun joining the fight on the side of the Syrian rebels, not to promote liberty, but their own terrorist agenda.
 
The UN has tried to pass resolutions condemning the fighting but have been unsuccessful. Mainly because Russia and China don’t necessarily like the idea of another pro-western government being formed in the Middle East. Even if resolutions could  be passed, that doesn’t mean much except it would give the US more cause to intervene if that’s what they wanted to do…but is it? The current administration has shown great reluctance to act unilaterally, and the Syrian conflict is no exception.
 
Now we get to actually answering your question. There are a few general thoughts that are prevalent in Congress and the White House. One thought, advocated by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, is that we need to intervene just as we did in Libya. They believe that we should send our superior Air Force to suppress the Syrian military and aid the rebels in ending the killings and overthrowing the government in hopes that it will be replaced by a pro-western democracy. There are others who feel that we should stay as far away from Syria as possible because either its not our problem and therefore not worth our money, or we are reminded of past troubles in the Middle East and we do not want to start another long engagement like in Iraq or Afghanistan. To top it all off, this is an election year and so no extreme actions on either end of the spectrum will likely occur until after November.
 
Until November we see how the Obama administration is tip-toeing around the issue. In recent developments, the US has decided to deliver non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. I have a feeling that this will be the extent of US intervention that we will see until after the election in November. The president doesn’t want to commit any of the US military to the conflict even if it would guarantee an end to the fighting for fear of alienating his own base but at the same time Obama does not want to appear heartless or even weak to the more moderate voters who will ultimately decide the upcoming election.
 
So to answer the question briefly, what will the US do in Syria? Not much. We support the separatist cause but not enough for the current administration to take any political risks to act without the full cooperation of the international community.
 
Hope this answers your question.
 
– Brian
 
If you have read this response and wish to ask your own question, about Syria or any other topic, please see the Ask Me tab at the top of this blog.
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