National Security

How You Really Solve the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Both the Islamic State and Bashar al-Assad must be addressed.

Harold Hutchison · Oct. 28, 2016

It’s obvious that the Syrian refugee problem is an immense one. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing, and dealing with this massive exodus has its challenges. Some are terrorists, and sorting them out from those fleeing the civil war is next to impossible.

So how do we solve the problem? The key is to not look at the refugees as the problem but instead as a symptom — by getting down to the root causes of this long-running humanitarian nightmare.

There are two major reasons for this refugee crisis. The first is the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which kicked off the Syrian Civil War by deciding to gun down protesters who sought democracy. Let’s be very blunt: Assad’s regime lacks moral legitimacy given its use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs on civilians, and its track record of supporting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.

The second major reason is the Islamic State, which burns prisoners alive, unless jihadis decide to behead them. Homosexuals — real or accused — get tossed off buildings. Women taken prisoner by ISIL end up as sex slaves, while Western leftists worry about “safe spaces.” If these heavily armed jihadis came to your neighborhood, would you stick around?

Now for the next bit of common sense: Resettling refugees might make us feel good about our compassion, but it’s like putting a Band-Aid on malignant melanoma. That action, which Barack Obama’s administration has implemented and Hillary Clinton supports (well, aside from Christian refugees), doesn’t address the real problems — which are the Islamic State and Assad. Take them out, and the main reason for refugees fleeing is gone. Donald Trump promises to take out ISIL, but his approach to Assad is murky.

The Islamic State is the relatively easier part of the equation. Within 30 hours of the final go code, the United States could unleash Sir Arthur Harris’s playbook on Raqqa. With two divisions’ worth of troops, we could have ISIL scrambling for the caves within 30 days.

The Assad regime will be a tougher nut to crack — partially because Russia saw weakness in Obama’s failure to back up his “red line” and is now more firmly behind Assad than ever. However, one other big reason is that George W. Bush never tried to reverse the military cuts of the 1990s. In 1991, we had 18 active Army divisions and 10 more in the National Guard. On 9/11, the totals were 10 and 8, a 35.7% reduction. For the active Army, it was a 44.44% reduction. We were told by politicians back then that we would get a peace dividend.

This lack of troops is a big hurdle in actually solving the refugee crisis. We can still put an end to the Islamic State and Assad, but the ability to rebuild Syria is seriously in question. Had Obama not abandoned Iraq, we’d probably just be dealing with Assad and the task might not be as bad. But because Obama did abandon the Iraqis, that country needs to do some rebuilding as well, which compounds the task.

So how did that “peace dividend” and the “responsible end of the war in Iraq” turn out? Not very well. Today, we have a refugee crisis that can only be solved by major military action and rebuilding — and a willingness to address the actual causes of the refugee problem rather than pushing for feel-good solutions.

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