How Should the US Help Syria?

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How Should the US Help Syria?

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For many senators and diplomats worldwide, the Paris attacks were a wake-up call. ISIS terrorism was no longer a threat to the Middle East alone, and the need for counter-terrorism action became evident overnight. In addition to this, the recent attack in San Bernardino has brought said threat to American soil. Now more than ever, the world is aware of the humanitarian threat that is Islamic State. All that is needed is a way to destroy it.

Finding a solution in light of attacks in France has brought unexpected unity to the political world. Usually at odds, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were seen having an impromptu meeting regarding Syria and ISIS during a Group 20 summit in Turkey (washingtonpost.com). While relations between the two presidents are admittedly strained, such an encounter between these two leaders promises a plan of actionif they are able to agree on one.   

Seeing the two talking together is unusual, but even more so are the events in our nation’s capitol. In November, the House passed a bill that would lower the amount of Iraqi and Syrian refugees allowed into the United States, with 289 in favor and 137 opposed. These numbers show that a large amount of Democrats are siding with the Republicans in favor of such a bill, possibly enough to override a veto from President Obama.

Ask presidential candidates what the US should do about Syria, and you could buy a cup of Starbucks coffee with everyone’s two cents. Republican hopeful Donald Trump says he’ll send the refugees back to their war-torn homeland. The recent events in San Bernardino have also prompted him to call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” via a campaign press release, which would prevent a percentage of refugees from coming to the US (cnn.com). Yet Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton insists that closing our shores to immigrants would be a disgrace to the American spirit. Standing somewhere between those two, Senator Cruz, a Republican candidate, believes in offering Syria support, but not by housing refugees in the United States (npr.org).

There are many angles by which to form a plan of attack against ISIS. Indeed, it looks like a multi-faceted approach is the only way the rest of the world will gain any ground on Islamic State. And, while I am unable to tell you what, exactly, we can do to help Syria, I can tell you what we must avoid doing by all means.  

We can’t do nothing.

Yet it seems that, throughout the Arab Spring and the beginnings of the civil war in Syria, America has done next to nothing to help the country outside of housing a small number of refugees. Instead, we’ve trained and funded Syrian rebels, many of whom later joined ISIS (wnd.com). In effect, while we were not solely responsible for creating an organization bent on our destruction, we undeniably helped it grow enough for it to gain territory equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom.

So, what do we do to fix the problem without making things worse? In my opinion, we have two main options.

The first is to ally with Russia and send forces overseas to destroy ISIS. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US military is the world’s strongest. We have nearly 14,000 aircraft, almost 1,000 attack helicopters, 20 aircraft carriers and 72 submarines. In addition, the amount of money we spend on defense is more than the nine countries ranked below us on this index combined (businessinsider.com).

America has the potential to be quite a formidable foe, but she does not have a plan. Russia, on the other hand, is second on the list in terms of military strength, and has a method for retaliation; she is currently active in Syria, bombing both ISIS and the rebels. While relations between the US and Russia are not optimal, one could only imagine the impact airstrikes would have if both countries performed them together. Siding with nations aiming to eradicate Islamic State would make an attack against it stronger, as all of us could pool our resources into achieving a common goal. This approach, in addition to throwing ISIS a considerable punch, could perhaps promote further unity between the countries fighting together, as it would force national leaders to get on the same page in order to achieve success. Obama and Putin are not on the best of terms, but, if both agreed to jointly attack and destroy Islamic State, substantial progress could be made in the fight against the jihadist organization. However, it would take much compromise on both nations’ parts and a considerable amount of frustration with each other to make this plan work.

Another option would be to let other nations do the fighting and welcome refugees into our country. Yet this idea is highly controversial amongst the American public; in a Bloomberg Politics poll, 53 percent of voters were opposed to the United States accepting refugees. This could be because there is a possibility that opening up the US to refugees might allow terrorists into the country. According to Donald Trump, this could become a “Trojan horse” for America, as we are not always able figure out who these refugees are and where they come from (cnn.com).

However, housing refugees would allow the United States to help the Syrian people without having to put more money, troops, time and possibly more casualties into another war, one that promises to grow even more violent and brutal. Our nationand several othersis still recovering from our last anti-terrorism effort: the War in Afghanistan, which, at 14 years, is the longest-lasting war in American history. It cost the US $685.6 billion, with almost 3,500 killed and 20,124 injured, not to mention the civilian casualities (time.com & cnn.com).

Also, in looking at the current state of Afghanistan, one must ask exactly how much the United States helped the country. When we entered, our two main goals were to find and kill Osama bin Laden and to overthrow the Taliban. While bin Laden is dead and the Taliban no longer governs Afghanistan, it has been revived there, and is growing like weeds on Pakistani soil (bbc.com).  

Therefore, one must weigh the options: accept refugees—and possibly terrorists with them—or fight another war and perhaps cause even more destruction to our own country, as well as several others.

If we were to stay on our own shores, we would have the advantage; we know our own land and our own resources. Theoretically, we could use said resources build up an Arab community here, offering the people a safe place to raise their families and start new lives. ISIS can conquer their homelands, but by housing refugees, we could keep the people’s hope alive and strong, a testimony to ISIS that the Middle Eastern spirit is not particularly easy to shatter.    

There are certainly risks that come with either plan, but this is war, and risks must sometimes be taken to achieve victory. However, this is no longer just war on Christians or Muslims or Kurds. This is no longer just a battle between religions and nationalities. This has become a war against all of humanity. Regardless of creed, race or political beliefs, we’re all targets. Whether or not the war comes overseas to us in the form of refugees or terrorist attacks is not always something we can predict. But, whatever the United States decides to do, hopefully it will be for the benefit of all those suffering in the Middle East and around the world from ISIS’s destruction.        

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