This post is written by Policy Coordinator Danny Hirschel-Burns as a statement of STAND’s policy stance.
STAND has kept a close watch on Syria from the first days of peaceful protests in 2011. Since then, we have have been shocked and dismayed as cycles of violence have become further and further entrenched. We have consistently urged the United States government, as well as other international actors, to create and implement strategies to mitigate violence against civilians. However, we feel that the Obama administration’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Syria is not one such strategy. Therefore, STAND strongly urges Congress to reject the current plan of action, and in turn urge the Obama administration to pursue alternative strategies aimed, first and foremost, at protecting the lives of all Syrian civilians.
There are multiple reasons STAND does not feel it can support strikes. First, relevant academic studies suggest that this intervention will likely kill more civilians than it will save. Second, the limited timeframe and mandate of the intervention will likely not change the fundamental dynamics of violence in Syria. The Assad regime will come out only marginally weakened and more motivated to exact revenge on civilians. Third, STAND believes that a negotiated solution to the conflict would provide the best situation for civilians even despite the current unlikelihood of that happening. An airstrike campaign will only decrease the already slim chances of bringing the various players, both Syrian and international, to the negotiating table. Furthermore, a military intervention will divert crucial resources from other more productive avenues.
Instead, there are three strategies that STAND urges the United States government to adopt to facilitate civilian protection. First, we urge a total weapons embargo of Syria. The United States is certainly not the only player supplying arms, so it should put diplomatic pressure on Russia, Iran, the gulf countries, the EU and all other international players to cease providing weapons to various groups in Syria. We believe stopping the flow of arms to all sides to be justified in the interest of civilian protection. Second, we urge the United States to lead the international community in raising the $3.5 billion the UN has requested in humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees and IDP’s. This is one of the most concrete ways the international community can aid the millions of Syrians in need in the midst of a crisis that is quickly consuming the region. The United States should also pledge to allow Syrian refugees to seek asylum in the US. Lastly, we urge that the United States continue to work with international actors to find a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Syria. In the interest of civilian protection, the United States should do its absolute best to end this conflict as soon as possible. It is neither in the United States’ national interest nor in the interest of Syrian civilians to pursue policies that will exacerbate the conflict while simultaneously closing off avenues to end it.