Reese Ehrlich’s work in Inside Syria is timely and hugely important. In the selections we read, he effectively discusses the complicated assortment of rebel groups and state backers that comprise the Syrian crisis. However, I am most interested in his discussion of humanitarian intervention. In analyzing the proper approach to dealing with Syria, Ehrlich points out that there is “no humanitarian intervention without regime installation.” This is a fundamental problem. How do we aid in the suffering of countless innocent civilians without creating dependency or conditions requiring occupation?
Ehrlich offers a solution that strikes me as far from satisfying. He proposes that we provide “humanitarian aid…done peacefully” and “programs in which Americans directly help the people of Syria.” These both sound great, but what good do these solutions do for those in the midst of the crisis? Even in saying that, I recognize the reality that no easy solution is forthcoming (as Ehrlich also recognizes in asserting the need for Russian cooperation).
This question is at the heart of modern foreign policy: recognizing our historical legacy as oppressors, how do we aid those who seem to be under significant oppression without creating the same long-term systems of imperialistic oppression that we have been perpetrators of for so much of our history? This is the question that Ehrlich is dealing with, and while I push back against his solutions which seems to regard those in the midst of the crisis as lost, I recognize that perhaps the answer to this question ends in small-scale systems of aid.