from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

March 15: Five Years of Disaster in Syria

March 15, 2016

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Today, the Ides of March, marks the fifth anniversary of the rebellion in Syria against the Assad regime.

These five years have brought an amazing humanitarian disaster: perhaps 350,000 dead, half the population driven from their homes, 4 million refugees. The  impact has been enormous: from destabilizing the politics and economics of Jordan and Lebanon, to increasing the Iranian role in the Arab Middle East greatly, to bringing Russia back into the region, to the destabilization of the European Union through massive refugee flows.

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Yesterday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s bill (H. Con. Res. 75) calling the treatment of Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities by ISIS a "genocide." The rise of ISIS is in large part a product of the civil war in Syria, where a regime tied to Iran slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Sunni civilians.

When we look back on the Obama years, and despite the President’s boasts and self-satisfaction in his lengthy interview with The Atlantic, these deaths, the enormous humanitarian toll, and the disastrous impact on Europe will be a very large part of the Obama legacy. Like most leaders he has gone to the Holocaust Museum to intone "Never Again," but unlike most he has actually presided over a period when violence grew into genocide, when killings of civilians slowly crept up toward 400,000, and when millions were driven from their country.

In April 2012, just about four years ago, President Obama said these words at the Holocaust Museum:

 

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen -- because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent...We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, "never again" is a challenge to us all -- to pause and to look within...And finally, "never again" is a challenge to nations. It’s a bitter truth -- too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

 

Remembrance without resolve, awareness without action. Those words and the realities they describe should indeed haunt the reputation of the Obama administration and those who formed its policy for the last five years in Syria.

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