What to do about the conflict in Syria

Posted on Jun 12 2013 - 9:19pm by Travis Offield

Civil war has now raged on in Syria for over two years, and it has become a forgone conclusion that more direct efforts by the western powers will be needed for damage control in the region. Hopes of guiding this horrific scene to a peaceful state with diplomatic resolve are more or less hopeless, leaving the United States and other key western nations to ponder riskier ideas for a more direct intervention against the Syrian government.

The government, led by President Bashar al-Assad and his military regime, has been pounding outmatched rebel fighters with air strikes, often times massacring large numbers of innocent civilians in the process. So, one idea is to enforce a no-fly zone over Syrian air space. The obstacle to this plan is that it would likely need to pass as a resolution in the United Nations Security Council, which is complicated by the fact that Russia is doing Russia and won’t play nice with anyone in the west. The Kremlin has been incredibly reluctant to impose any actions against the Assad regime, and has in fact even attempted smuggling heavy artillery into the already advantageously armed Syrian military.

Another plan, and perhaps the most likely to be put into action within the coming weeks, would be to arm the government’s opposition with more firepower. However, there is great risk involved with this. One problem with aiding the rebel fighters is that they are highly factionalized groups of militants, including terrorist groups with ties to al-Qaida. These particular groups of jihadists, driven by religious radicalism, would pose a great threat to the west if they were to gain control over Syria in the event that the Assad regime falls. If the U.S. government elects to send arms to the rebels, which I believe they will do sooner rather than later, it will need to be done under guidelines set by extensive intelligence on the particular factions of this opposition.

It is unclear exactly how and when the U.S. will take more direct action against Assad, but I expect just about any ideas are on the table, short of actually putting troops on the ground. It is clear, however, that we can no longer sit on the sideline cheering for diplomatic efforts to prevail because this war has far transcended diplomacy.


Travis Offield is a chemical engineering major from Horn Lake. Follow him on Twitter @travisoffield.