By Adam Schalke
The ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria has become more difficult over the past few weeks with photos of the bodies of Syrian refugees washed ashore along the Mediterranean were published online. The images caused many countries in the west and other regions unaffected by the conflict to take in these refugees as the civil war and struggle against ISIS engulfs Syria and tumbles the country into chaos. After initial reluctance, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States is joining European states in taking in the displaced refugees. According to a CNN report the cap of 70,000 migrants will come by the end of 2015. That number will increase to 85,000 by the next fiscal year, and 100,000 refugees will enter the United States by the end of 2017.
There are those who say that the U.S. can do more to help the refugees. “This appears to me to be is a relatively small step in increasing the US share of the refugee burden regarding the Syrian crisis,” said Philip Hultquist, a professor of political science at Roosevelt University. “I don’t see how this is enough to help the current situation. I would expect the US to help share the burden with European countries proportionally with our capabilities.”
Another question entangled with the Syrian issue is what should the United States be doing in order to assist in the defeat of ISIS. Politicians and statesmen on both sides of the aisle expressed concern about directly engaging ISIS with boots on the ground, arguing that such a move will only be repetitive of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Many suggest that is the role of regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not the United States, that should be taking the fight to ISIS. Professor Hultquist shares these sentiments.
“Local powers should have a much stronger incentive to fight given that ISIS is of much more a threat to them than to the US. US troop presence is certainly more capable for taking back territory from ISIS, but it also serves as a lightning rod for discontent in the region and plays into the recruitment rhetoric of ISIS and similar organizations,” he said.
Further complicating involvement in the conflict is the arrival of Russian forces in Syria to combat ISIS. Many western officials are skeptical of embracing an alliance with Russia out of fear that such an action would legitimize the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is considered by many in the west to be a war criminal for use of chemical weapons against Syrian citizens.