By Robert Weiner, Mahmoud Al Shaarawy and Ben Lasky
It's often said "there are no good options for Syria." Not exactly.
The war in Syria is tremendously complicated and its overlapping layers require a multi-layer solution. It is the biggest humanitarian disaster since WWII. A people-to-people approach would save millions of innocent souls. We should evoke examples like Alliance for Progress, Peace Corps, and VISTA1961--1969 which were the biggest U.S. aid programs toward the developing world up to that point--and called for substantial reform of Latin American institutions. It was an effective way to create a friendship and stabilize difficult situations in Latin America back at the 60s.
White Helmets is a group of some 3,000 volunteers has been credited with saving over 60,000 people from the rubble of buildings in war-torn Syria. This group could be the perfect example of what the international community should vastly support in Syria.
As the Syrian plight goes through its sixth year, it is still far away from a viable solution to stop bloodshed. Only uncertainty and further violence loom. The repercussions of the Syrian conflict echo loudly in Europe, which is plagued by a surge in terrorist attacks and bitter internal division about how to handle the rapidly-growing refugee crisis--one that caused Brexit.
U.S. cities like New York and Orlando are thousands of miles and an ocean and sea away from the nearest Syrian city. However, the perpetrators of the terrorist acts in these cities who declared their allegiance to ISIS, the perverted individuals who set off explosive devices and executed mass shootings, show that Syria is closer than Americans think.
US-Syria policy is in the midst of conflicting strategies and alliances. The U.S. and Russia are at odds over how to end the war, or rather, how to manage it. Maybe this will change in the Trump administration
President Obama created red lines and ignored them when Congress refused to authorize air strikes he had wanted. President Elect Trump has a plan but will not yet tell anyone about it. Secretary Clinton said in the third presidential debate, "I will continue to push for safe zones and safe havens not only to protect civilians and stop the constant flow of refugees, but also and frankly to gain some leverage on both the Syrian and Russian governments."
Russia has a stake in the prolongation of the conflict. If it loses its ally in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it would lose its toehold in the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East.
Recently, Russia warned the U.S. against attacking the government's troops. That warning later translated in Moscow's announcement that it had beefed up its forces in Syria with S-300 air defense missiles, raised its troops from 3,000 to 9,000 and deployed navy forces in the Mediterranean.
President Obama claims it stopped Syria from using chemical stockpiles to commit genocide. Perhaps. Now, the US wants to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the floods of refugees.
What are the options?