by Brett Barkley
Lost amidst recent debate1 of whether the international community should militarily intervene in Syria are all the ways in which intervention has already happened.
As of late September, the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) had allocated nearly €1.8 billion to provide support for the over 6 million Syrians either registered as refugees or internally displaced since the crisis began in 2011. Funds originate from the EU humanitarian aid budget, as well as individual member states—the UK (€ 473 million) and Germany (€205 million) being the largest donors. The US, in 2012 and 2013 alone, provided nearly $1.4 billion in assistance.
Compare with the tens of millions of dollars Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House of Representatives that limited airstrikes in Syria would cost. Even if we assume that costs would be much higher, say in the hundreds of millions and perhaps approaching $1 billion (the approximate US contribution to the Libyan intervention), the numbers still don’t amount to the funds already poured into the crisis by the US and EU—albeit for more virtuous humanitarian assistance. This is not to say that the US or the broader international community should approve military intervention in Syria. But, it is to say that the isolationist refrain, heard recently across the US and perhaps parts of Europe, that tax dollars cannot continue to be wasted on conflicts in the Middle East is a bit off-base. For better or worse, the US and EU are already heavily invested, having already spent tax dollars in greater sums than a limited military intervention would likely require.
Fortunately, diplomatic negotiations have progressed, and military intervention now appears less imminent. Still, the humanitarian crisis on the ground continues to worsen. Even before the chemical weapons attack in late August, the UN had already increased the 2013 humanitarian appeal from $1.5 to $4.4 billion—the largest humanitarian appeal in the history of the UN. So, if there’s one certainty about the current crisis, it’s that the international community must continue to provide substantial monetary assistance. The stability of a region teetering on the brink depends on it.
|Refugee camp in Turkey (Source: Creative Commons)|
1 The European Union Center (EUC) at the University of Illinois co-hosted a Teach-In on Syria on September 18, where professors from departments across campus addressed key issues concerning the conflict in Syria and held a robust dialogue with the audience. A video of the teach-in may be viewed by clicking here.