by Adele Duval, J.D. Lyle, and Libby Nyquist
In Feb. 2011, peaceful protests broke out in Syria against the current president, Bashar al-Assad, demanding movement toward becoming a more democratic state. In response, Assad’s forces retaliated and have continued to violently suppress the demonstrators. In defiance of the regime’s actions, a group of military officers from the Syrian military formed the Free Syrian Army, and the situation devolved into a civil war between Assad and the people.
The fighting pressed on, despite any peace attempts or calls for negotiations made by the Arab League and the UN-appointed peace envoy, Kofi Annan. The fighting continued for two years until eventually, chemical weapons were alleged to have been used to attack suburbs in Damascus, killing as many as 1,400 citizens.
Many nations have condemned Syria in the past for its actions against its own people and the violation of basic human rights. Peace negotiations have been so hopeless that after two separate peace conferences in Geneva in 2013 and many other failed negotiations, UN appointed Kofi Annan resigned with the belief that no peace could be made; his replacement agreed.
American efforts to deal with the Syrian situation have focused on the growing threat of ISIS, with the main tactic being to train and equip recruits, spending $500 million with the goal of producing 5,400 Syrian fighters this year, and 15,000 in three years.
Recently, the U.S. has retracted this program due to its painfully apparent failure to train the expected number of Syrians, and the military failure of soldiers who completed training. It was not until the beginning of October this year that the U.S. decided to supply the Free Syrian Army directly with antitank missiles to assist in their fight against Assad and put more pressure on Assad’s regime in Syria.
The assistance recently provided to the Syrian rebels had a dramatic impact within the very week that the U.S. military distributed them, but these efforts to assist the FSA against the Assad regime should have been much more extensive, and much swifter. One of the largest reasons as to why the US had not done anything sooner was the discontent to the idea of going back to war in the Middle East; the ideal solution would be to negotiate a resolution diplomatically, but it was seen early on that diplomatic solutions for peace would not work when Assad continually ignored all peace agreements, and sanctions placed on Syria had no effect on Assad’s determination to retain power.
With the evidence of the diplomatic negotiations’ failure, it should not have taken the U.S. as long as it did to realize that more aid to the Syrian rebels would be needed, and still more is going to be needed in order to usher in the end to this war.
The Syrian people have taken the risks associated with standing up the Assad, and are being killed by the thousands because of it, and the United States should affirm their aims and come to their assistance. The people of Syria have been calling for government reforms towards democracy since 2011, and are only now receiving more concrete support from the United States.
The situation that has unfolded in Syria is a perfect opportunity for the United States to promote broader changes in the Middle East, changes that could lead to a safer, more democratic region.
This editorial, written by Adele Duval, J.D. Lyle, and Libby Nyquist, is the basis for a documentary project conducted within the Contemporary Questions course, an honors class for first-year students. On Monday, November 23, the Contemporary Questions class will be presenting all of their documentary films at 6:00p.m., in Canterbury Hall.