Foreign policy issues are obviously not simple problems to solve, or they would be settled already. A question the United States frequently faces is when to and when to not interfere with global conflicts that from the outside may not appear to directly affect or threaten our country.
The crisis in Syria is a great example of this – any intervention or use of force would likely make one, if not multiple, of the following impossible to prevent: (1) a war with Russia, (2) sending in US ground troops, (3) jihadists making it worse.
Something has to be done, though, and soon. Over 400,000 Syrians have been killed and 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes. The US obviously should not intervene, though, if there is a greater risk that the US makes the situation worse than better.
A no-fly zone has been proposed by some, including Hillary Clinton. While this may save some civilian lives, it does not solve the root cause of the Syrian war. It would also be rather difficult to effectively execute, given the US would have to ensure their own planes would not be shot down and could fly safely, meaning destroying Syrian air defense would be necessary. Their air defense system is much more complex and widespread than any other country’s system in which the US has attempted a no-fly zone.
Russia also poses a huge problem to the no-fly zone strategy, as they would never buy into the concept.
Another proposed solution is designating a conflict-free zone within Syria. Like the no-fly zone, this solution does not address solving the root cause of the civil war either. The safe zone would also have to be heavily guarded by US troops, who would be at an extreme risk while stationed there.
A third frequently proposed strategy is arming and training the rebels. The main flaw in this solution is that Syrian rebels are not one clearly unified or identifiable group.
The distribution of weapons to rebels in Syria is extremely difficult to manage. Weapons are simply ending up in the wrong hands. The FBI discovered that rogue Jordanian intelligence operatives sold US weapons on the black market that were intended for rebels.
Jihadists getting their hands on weapons would be extremely problematic, as they could pick things like commercial aircraft as targets. Also, it will become harder and harder for Syria to rebuild after the conflict if terrorists get these powerful weapons since they could destabilize the region all over again.
Countries have been able to assist Syrians in non-military ways, by accepting refugees for example.
Around a year ago, the governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, rescinded his previous order that attempted to ban Syrian refugees from resettling in Georgia. According to an article from the Daily Caller, as of September of 2016, there were just under 75 residents in Stone Mountain, GA, a city about 15 miles east of Atlanta who were Syrian refugees. This number may seem small at first but take into account that the population of Stone Mountain is only a little under 6,000.
That number, 75, is more than the number of Syrian refugees resettled in New York City and Los Angeles, combined. Los Angeles has resettled 45 refugees and New York City has resettled … 9.
While in the abstract the 1.5% of the population in Stone Mountain that is represented by Syrian refugees might seem small, it is large in comparison to the one-thousandth of a percent and one-ten-thousandth of a percent represented by Syrian refugees in Los Angeles and New York City, respectively.
Aleppo, Syria.. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/137_3093132/1/137_3093132/cite. Accessed 25 Jan 2017.