You break it, you own it
Jordan Ryan | Monday, October 5, 2015
For weeks, the Syrian civil war has dominated headlines. The conflict has taken more than 320,000 lives and left more than 6.5 million internally displaced. More than 4 million people have sought refuge elsewhere. With so many refugees, more affluent nations have stepped up to the plate to assist. Germany just announced it would accept nearly 800,000 Syrian refugees this year. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the U.S. would accept 100,000 refugees by 2017, most of whom will be Syrian. Since March 2011, only 1,584 refugees have been relocated to the U.S. Seeing as the U.S. is a big reason why there are so many refugees in the first place, we ought to keep our word this time around.
The Syrian civil war began in early 2011, as democratic protestors demanded President Bashar Al-Assad step down. What began as protests turned into a full-blown civil war between the Assad government and the democratic rebels. Violence has ripped the nation to shreds. The war has turned into a proxy battle, as the U.S., UK., France and Russia have all contributed to one side or the other in the past five years. ISIS has joined in as well in an effort to take Syria for themselves. And if the conflict couldn’t get more complicated, Russia has made headlines this past week by targeting civilians with its own air strikes.
A turning point in the U.S. approach to this crisis was when President Obama said in August 2012 that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would cross the “red line.” One year later, Assad employed chemical weapons in an attack, killing 1,400 in four hours, including more than 400 children, yet Obama sat silent. He claimed Assad had given up all other chemical weapons, so we had nothing to worry about anymore. However, since the initial attack, Syria has launched chemical weapon attacks so often that, according to a rescue worker on the ground, “People are so used to it, they know from the sound.” Assad clearly still has chemical weapons and is willing to deploy them.
“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said days after confirming Assad ordered the attacks. He added that there were a range of options available, and should the order be given, U.S. forces were “ready to go, like that.” We even had allies to go in alongside us, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. This situation is far more dire than that presented by the Libyan crisis, and the U.S. intervened with strong force on that occasion. Consequently, it makes sense to intervene now more aggressively in Syria. The military was ready, but the President was not.
Since we’re already the top financial contributor to the conflict, spending an estimated $1.15 billion to date, aid could be rearranged to sponsor more refugees’ entrance into the country. Our financial support in Syria presently has little impact. Bribes, kickbacks and illegal taxes imposed by ISIS troops led some U.S. aid to land in the hands of terror groups. Restructuring our system of aid distribution could help control where the money is actually going and ensure it is truly helping where it is most needed. Spending it domestically on helping refugees rebuild their lives in America will ensure we know exactly where our aid is going.
Lawmakers opposed to bringing in refugees argue they could potentially be terrorists. Peter T. King (R-NY) claims that, “Our enemy now is Islamic terrorism, and these people are coming from a country filled with Islamic terrorists. We don’t want another Boston Marathon bombing situation.” Those who are concerned about this are missing the bigger picture. According to Stacie Blake of the United States Center for Refugees and Immigration, “We’re talking about people who have been tortured, about children who have not been able to attend school for four years and about women who have been living not even in refugee camps but in urban settings in abject poverty without adequate water, blankets or heat in the winter.” Critics also ignore the fact that there is an extensive background check process performed to ensure our safety from potential terrorists. Had the U.S. gone into Syria like planned, perhaps these persons would not be displaced.
Especially given Russia’s recent actions in the region, it’s clear the conflict is only going to escalate. Those people need help, and it is the moral obligation of the U.S. to lead with helping hands. Colin Powell’s remarks on the invasion of Iraq and consequential influx of refugees can be applied here too: “You break it, you own it.” It’s time we take responsibility for what we didn’t do.
Jordan Ryan, sophomore resident of Lyons Hall, studies political science and peace studies along with minors in Constitutional studies and business economics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.