Sample Political Science Research Paper on The War in Syria

The War in Syria


Syria, one of the most admirable nations in the Arab region, is arguably the most war torn nation across the globe embroiled in an unending civil war. The ongoing crisis has led to loss of thousands of lives and displacement of millions of people. The crisis has also strengthened the Al- Qaeda affiliated terror organization, Islamic State in Syria, whose impacts are being felt across Europe. The President of Syria, Bashir A-Assad, triggered the war when he launched a severe crackdown on the citizens during the rebellion that was elicited by the Arab Spring. This was as a result of the Syrian people seeking a democratic government and space. Despite the fact that most nations that took part in the revolts in the Arab spring have returned back to normalcy, the situation in Syria has worsened and attracted a global intervention and participation both at regional and super powers levels. The United States has been one of the parties interested in the Syrian war, especially in foreseeing the persistence of the conflict. After a chemical attack that took place in 2013, the U.S. threatened President Bashar of its military intervention in Syria. The current international conflict in Syria is a result of theories of international relations that have been applied as it happened in other nations like Iraq and Libya where the U.S. played a vital role. The concepts that are being applied in Syria represent the features of the realistic theory of international relations where the U.S. is driving its own agenda rather than ending the war. This is the main reason why concepts like the responsibility to protect or humanitarian intervention are being doubted, which are as a result of the selfish interests the nation can be aiming to achieve. This paper presents different theories that are at the center of the Syrian war and why humanitarian intervention or right to protection despite being a legitimate international concept is only being driven in Syria as a result of personal interests by the United States and other Western powers. The paper also explains why the aggressiveness of Hillary may see this war being termed as Hillary’s War if she is elected the President of the United States.

The War in Syria


In August 2012, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, warned the Syrian government against the use of chemical weapons to its own citizens. The white house categorically stated that the act would trigger military intervention from the United States. After some period of time during which the war in Syria did not seem to cool down, the Syrian government decided to use chemical weapons against its own people. This act impelled President Obama to suggest a military action on Syria, which was to be a response to the humanitarian crisis that the government had instilled on the citizens. Several scholars, through theories, have understood the exchanges between Syria and the United States differently. Due to the nature of globalization and the way the world is connected, one theory cannot be enough to give meaning to different actions regarding the Syrian war. Nevertheless, the realism theory is one of the theories that give a clear explanation of the nature of war and conflict between the United States and Syria. Through realism, one is able to understand and ascertain the United States declared intentions in the Syrian war and the objectives it is expected to attain. According to realists, the need for power provides a clear opportunity to understand both the intentions of the United States in Syrian that are leading to the current stalemate in the nation and globally. Therefore, in asserting that its military intervention in Syria is driven by the humanitarian needs and going against the requirements of the United Nations, the United States has clearly demonstrated that in as much as it presents itself as an international protector, it is always aiming at attaining its own personal interests. 

Historical Background

The relationship between the U.S. and Syria has not been good in the past, as it is the case with other nations in the Middle East. In terms of foreign policy, the Middle East nations have historically had strained approaches to the U.S. policies. This was until the mid of the 20th century when President Roosevelt of the United States avowed in 1941 that protection of the Middle East was equally significant for the protection of the United States. The Soviet Union in the meantime had extended its influence in the Eastern part of Europe and at the onset of the Second World War, the union was targeting the Middle East. The intention of the Soviet Union to expand its influence in the region worried the U.S., especially the fact that Syria would become a part of international communism spearheaded by the union. In November 1970, Hafiz Al-Assad established himself as the Prime Minister of Syria through a bloodshed coup, who went on to be the President of the nation (Lennon, 2007). During that period, President Assad was acknowledged as the force behind the political stability in the nation that was divided. Nonetheless, his detractors affirmed that the stability was attained through social injustices, for instance, unfair arrest and assassinations to opposition leaders and other outspoken minds that were against his ruling (The World Factbook, 2013). According to Lennon (2017), numerous unrest and riots from the opposition made President Assad to start bombing his cities, at the same time killing and arresting civilians (Ziadeh, 2011). According to human right organizations, it is estimated that more that seventeen thousand citizens were never accounted for, an aspect that tarnished the reputation of the Assad administration (Ziadeh, 2011). Assad’s foreign policy to the international community, mainly other Middle East nations, the Soviet Union, and close ties with Washington had a great influence on the relationship between Syria and the U.S.

In the year 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of an action to partition Palestine, a move that angered Syria. This led to fierce demonstrations in Damascus and torching of all embassies of nations that supported the move at the General Assembly, which included the U.S. (Rabil, 2006). In the subsequent years, the U.S. and the Soviet Union unrelentingly persisted in their fight to set foot and control the region. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union in its support in the Arab side of the region provided both economic and military support to Syria. Since Syria had positioned itself as an ally to all sides through a positive neutralism policy, this implied that it would seek aid to where it could (Rabil, 2006). This did not go on well with the Western nations, especially with the escalating Cold War since the region was fighting western imperialism. In 1976, the U.S. Congress passed the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act and an Export Administration Act in 1979. These acts prohibited all forms of international assistance to all nations that seemingly supported terrorism. Syria was to be affected by this edict, which was the main reason of cold relations between the U.S. and Syria (Rabil, 20006). This situation was aggravated by the direct involvement of the U.S. in the Lebanon conflict in 1975. At the time of the formation of UN coalition against Iraq in 1990-1991 Gulf war, Syria joined the coalition. The move was welcome by the U.S. and led to the opening of economic ties between Washington and Damascus. Furthermore, Washington was also pessimistic that the peace process between Israel and Syria would enhance their chances of dominating the region (Gasirowsi, 2011).

In June 10, 2000, Bashar Al-Assad took over as the President of Syria from his father. Due to his knowledge, he saw the need for harmonizing the relations between Syria and the Western nations. Nevertheless, his efforts were fruitless since Syria continued to support Lebanese Hezbollah wing, which made its relationship with the U.S. to remain tense. The U.S. did not completely trust Syria in policy adjustment (Gaasiorowski, 2011). After the end of the U.S.- Iraq war, the U.S. accused Syria of several issues, such as hiding Iraq’ s weapons of mass destruction, which was the root cause of the war. In 2003, the U.S. imposed sanction on Syria through the Syrian Accountability Act (Fact Sheet: Implementing, 2008). This act worsened the relations between the two nations. In late 2010, there was a arise of the Arab Spring and revolutions that were spread in Syria in 2011. The revolution was directed to Assad administration that led to an eruption of a civil war. In as much as the president promised several reforms in the nation, the demonstration and anti-government chants became fierce and led to clashes between the government forces and the protestors (Syria-Complex Emergency, 2012). This process led to the rise of several other anti-government armed groups. The civil war has claimed thousands of lives and many other people have been displaced. The Assad administration has also received international condemnation especially after the use of chemical weapons against its people. The United States announced a military intervention in Syria after the use of chemical weapons on the Syrians. Nevertheless, it retreated this move to allow Russia to go on with its intended diplomacy in finding a long lasting solution in Syria (Landler, 2013).

Realism in the Syrian War

Historically, the cold relationship between the U.S. and Syria was mainly as a result of the Syria government support of the U.S. antagonists in three main conflicts: the Arab Israeli war, the Cold War and the present day war on terrorism. Consequently, any military conflict or intervention between these two nations can be presumed to mean a U.S. strategy to command influence in the region. This assertion concurs with the realist norm of domination. According to Carlin (2013), smaller nations of the world are opting to support terrorism as a rejoinder to the apparent supremacy of the U.S. Due to its position and supremacy in the world, especially the military might, the US must implement its control to uphold its position in the hegemon. Nevertheless, in the Syrian conflict, the U.S. military through President Obama seemed weak since they could have crashed the Syrian forces. Furthermore, by letting Russia go ahead with its diplomacy mission, the U.S. authority at the international level was put to question (O’Reilly, 2013). However, through realism, the U.S. military power remains superior by not engaging with the Syrian forces.

This power politics triggers realism. According to realism, foreign policy is all about struggle for power and security among nations. This struggle is mainly attained through the use of force or the threat to use force (Genest, 2004). This also entails a process in which nations strive to further their own interests in a global arena. Having clearly understood the past conflicts that have involved the U.S., this perspective can be easily understood. For instance, in the Iraq war, the U.S. maintained it was triggered by Saddam regime’s use of chemical weapons with no proof. In the Iran Iraq war earlier, the U.S. supported Saddam’s use of chemical weapons and received significant intelligence on Iran (Carlin, 2013). The discrepancy on the government of the United States support the notion that it puts its interests ahead of anything else in times of conflicts as in Syria.

According to realism, the use of force to attain nations own interest in time of war also demonstrates the anarchy that is present in the international system. The current world has not seen the power of the UN in stamping its foot and taming nations like the United States. In the Iraq invasion, the U.S. demanded a UN backing through President Bush. The fact that the US invaded Iraq without an honest backing from the UN demonstrates a clear anarchy within the international system. President Obama almost approached Iraq in the same way after Assad chemical weapon attack to its people. According to realists, this kind of anarchy system brings about security dilemma and mistrust among different nations. For instance, why would the U.S. engage with Syrian forces. Russia is the main ally of Assad government and it supplies the troops with military equipment. Russia is also the defender of the Syrian government, especially from the United Nations Security Council. The U.S., on the other hand, supplies weapons to the rebel groups despite its initial position due to their extremist characteristics. This arises the question as to why the U.S. is justified in arming the rebel groups in Syria. Therefore, the nature of states relationships and their prospect in forming alliances in wars is purely self-gains and not from international system because they are failed systems.

Humanitarian Intervention (Right to Protection)

The concept of humanitarian intervention in Syria by the United States is not also legitimate. According to the United Nation Policy for the Prevention of genocide, sovereignty no longer protects nations from other States’ interferences (The Responsibility to Protect, 2012). The international community is mandated to safeguard any population from human right abuses as well as imposing a collective action in instances where there are crime actions (The Responsibility to Protect, 2012). These responsibilities are clearly stipulated and make sense with bodies like the United Nations. Nevertheless, powerful nations like the United States only adhere to these provisions if they are in line with their won national policies and interests. Under this case, the U.S. has been an offender of human rights, for instance, in the 199 Kosovo war and the war in Iraq in 2003. All these interventions were against the United Nations Security Council. According to the United Nation Security Council, all member nations have power to propose any international action and is the only body that is mandated to allow any international intervention by a nation. However, the member states of the body have turned out to be motivated by their own political objectives thus making decisions on humanitarian intervention to be hard. According to Waxman (2009), this position is upheld by famous assertion by politicians in the U.S. that the nation needs to be prepared to act solely or with like-minded nations in urgent cases without necessarily the approval of the United Nations.

According to realists, it is apparent that the theory of humanitarian intervention only appears helpful on the outward outlook but it is mainly concerned with the power acquisition with no moral objective. It is therefore not certain that any powerful state would engage in military action against any other nations, which is threatening people’s rights without having any selfish motivations involved. According to Baraka (2013), the U.S. concept of humanitarian intervention or right to protection is purely propaganda aimed at making the international community to have a feeling that the nation has some effective ideologies while in real sense it is a gendarme of capitalism. In the Syrian case, the U.S. claim of Assad use of chemical weapons to its civilians did not have independent confirmation. This was the same case with Iraq where the U.S. did not have tangible evidence to support its assertion of the nation having weapons of mass destruction in 2003. These are some of the apparent reason to demonstrate how the U.S. is using the concept of right to protection as a smoke screen to drive its self-interest agenda and objectives.

Furthermore, it is clear that the antagonism by the United Nations is not the reason the U.S. is reluctant to use military force in Syria since in previous times, it has gone ahead to carry out such actions without its approval (Sustar, 2013). The main reason the U.S. has reluctantly engaged in military action in Syria is the fear of a political repercussion of high amount of causalities. According to Sustar (2013), it is apparent that the main reason of the U.S. right to protection or humanitarian intervention in Syria is driven by its need to install a western power in the nation to drive the agenda of majority opinion. The recent move by the United Nations to destroy Syria’s piled stock of chemical weapon has lessened the international tension with regards to the use of such weapons in wars, especially against its own civilians. Therefore, any intervention by the U.S. at this time can also be warranted if there are fresh imminent threats, but according to history, the U.S. can take action and force of a threat as in the case of Iraq.  Therefore, the concept of humanitarian intervention or right to protection by the U.S. in the Syria conflict is not a legitimate international approach but a move by the super power to continue driving its own interests in the region.

The U.S. government humanitarian doctrine of humanitarian intervention has seen the White House drive its right to protection agenda in several other nations like Libya. This model of military intervention in regions, through forces under umbrellas like NATO, UN and AU are aimed at stopping further humanitarian crisis among nations (Wayne, 2011). Libya was a victim of these forces where rebel groups were backed by the U.S. and NATO led forces in eliminating the regime of the Mummar Qaddafi. The situation in Libya did not guarantee any seriousness that warranted the intervention of the U.S. and other global powers. This was driven by domestic interested groups since there was no national security alarm. Since there were Liberal humanists in the power structure that was being supported by the U.S., the Obama administration ordered the use of military intervention in the name of humanitarian intervention to drive their selfish interest and preserve the Liberal base, thus finding the military action necessary. The case of Libya is another demonstration of the U.S. and other influential nations use interventions to drive their interest. There are several conflicts in other nations, for instance, the newest nation in the world Southern Sudan and Yemen, which have demonstrated that the US and other Western nations’ humanitarian purposes are not honest but motivated by their interest to pursue their own selfish interests.

The war in Syria will continue to escalate given the different interests of world powers in the nation. This is the reason different nations have taken different approaches and different sides in the ongoing war in Syria. In the current situation in Syria, especially with the rising of the Islamic State, the only solution that will end the conflict is by the United States cooperating with Russia to eliminate the common enemy, which is the ISIS. After that, the two nations can push for their respective allies into negotiations that will integrate different ethnicities, sets and all factions involved in the conflict to address their objectives and create an inclusive government. On the other hand, the ISIS can also be incorporated in this agenda to find a long lasting solution to the Syrian conflict that has attracted international players.

If the Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, wins the coming U.S. election and becomes the POTUS, the Syrian conflict will become Hillary’s war. This is because she has clearly indicated that she will involve the U.S. in the Syrian war in a different way as being done by the Obama administration. This is in line with her contribution to the Libyan case when she was the Secretary of States. According to the Clintons foreign policy advisor, Jeremy Bash, it is apparent that Clinton will seek to make it clear to the world how brutal the Assad regime has been to its own people, which is a violation of human rights, killing them, including innocent children and women (Sputnik News). This is not actually a true representation what is on the ground since this is a provocation by the rebels that trigger the government to use force that has never been seen by the United States. Clinton has preferred a hard line position of the U.S. to Syria, predominantly imposing a no fly zone aimed at protecting Syrian civilians (Mcadams, 2016). However, this move is viewed as a too late action by the U.S. since the Syrians have resolved that the U.S. has not intervened in their case, especially when they needed their help. Furthermore, the Syrian war has taken the interest of many other international powers like Russia since its inception in 2011 with the government forces engaging with different other forces and extremist groups. Moreover, the issue of President Assad has dominated the Syrian peace talks that has attracted international players. This action with Clinton will trigger a further conflict, especially from Syrians and other world powers. Russia, for instance, has maintained that the conflict and issue surrounding Syria should be left to the Syrian people to find an amicable solution without any interference from external forces. At the same time, other players like the Riyadh, which is the opposition force in Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Western nations have insisted that the solution in Syria can only be achieved after President Assad leaves office and allows a transitional regime and period to take shape. Therefore, Hillary’s aggression to Syrian conflict may result in a further conflict, the Hillary’s war.

            According to history, the United States has not been at the forefront in protecting the rights of civilians or nationals. The U.S., like other Western powers, has always been motivated by self-interest gains at the expense of other nations’ breakdown as demonstrated in Libya and Iraq. The situation in Syria is not different. The Syrian case is even more complicated, especially with the involvement of Russia, which has had cold relation with the U.S. as a result of regional control and mighty power struggle. In as much as the U.S. military is one of the best in the whole world, it is not apparent that its involvement in different nations was as a result of unselfish reasons. The realist theory is one of the best models that help to understand the motive behind the U.S. policy towards Syria, particularly factoring in the aspects of power and dominance. Therefore, the U.S. suggesting the use of military action as a way of humanitarian intervention is only a means through which the nation seeks to stamp its authority and further its interests. In as much as there are serious humanitarian issues in Syria, it is difficult consider the responsibility to protect action by the domination nations, given their vested interest in the war torn nation.


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