Gidion’s Knot in a Snake Pit with a Bear and an Eagle: Syria

A Discussion by Haley Browning, Geneva Monteleone, Justin Song, Edgar Loza, and Allie Hanson

The issues in Syria started as a debate about the legitimacy of the Assad government. The conflicts then broadened, involving Iran and the Gulf states. Since then, it has expanded into the current proxy conflict between Russia, the U.S. and Iran.

Geneva: They are backed by various other countries, but there four main factions in Syria right now: Assad and his government, ISIS, the Kurds, and the Syrian rebels.

Allie: This is a topic a lot Americans feel concerned about. So in regards to our own involvement- why do you think the U.S. is against partitioning the territory? To me, it could be the solution.

Haley: Well, foreign policy isn’t necessarily about doing what is right for the world, it’s about maintaining interests. In the United States, seeing the huge quagmire this is, we want a whole Syria. It could be extremely difficult for the U.S if the land was partitioned.

Edgar: Don’t forget, this is one problem in a much broader quagmire. This isn’t the only proxy war that we’re connected to. You see, in this situation, we oppose Iran. However, in Yemen, we’re quasi-allied with Iran. That in itself causes a lot of mistrust and confusion, not only for us but for many parts of the world. While multiple world powers try working through Gidion’s knot, millions are suffering; 43% of Syrians have been displaced.

A: The events in Syria are definitely greatly affected by world powers, especially us and Russia.

H: Putin is known to stray from his word.

G: He claimed that his goal is to fight ISIS, but so far he has only been hurting the rebel groups that oppose his ally, Assad.

A: This whole thing is a twelve-cornered boxing match — For example, when he hurts the rebels, he weakens American interests. But when he helps Assad, who then could hurt ISIS, things may become easier for us.

Justin: As long different groups continue involvement, new complications and divisions are created.

G: As well as new agendas. One of the New York Times articles points out that Putin has been acting to help his ally, Assad, but it also seems like he wants to show the force of his military. Putin has said he isn’t afraid to use it.

J: You’re right. Simply supporting Assad doesnt seem like motivation enough to go to war. It seems like Russia is attempting to intimidate the West.

G: Basically, Syria is a mess of conflicts, agendas, and loyalties, leaving a very unclear solution.

E: The closest thing to a resolution might go back to Allie’s thoughts about partitioning Syria.

H: Could that idea actually be feasible? Could it be attempted?

E: Well, the other option is to unite everyone. Even if that somehow happened, the different cultures of the groups wouldn't stay easily intermingled. No remotely sustainable peace could come out of that.

H: But if you remember, after Sykes-Picot, it was easiest to have an authoritarian governement in charge.

J: Yeah. Without the tradition of a democratic state, these authoritarian governments were needed to bind new states together.

A: I suppose both ways of handling the Syrian strife are still on the table.

The Syrian conflict is a quagmire within a larger quagmire. All of the intervention and outside muscle continues to make things more complicated. A sustainable solution has to come from the people of Syria, with at most, some guidance from outside powers.