Could One Photo Spur U.S. Involvement in the Syrian Civil War?

“There are no good options here. But the worst option by far … is to do nothing.”

By Rhonda FanningAugust 19, 2016 11:44 am

Omran Daqneesh is in the back of an ambulance, sitting alone in a padded orange seat. The young Syrian’s hair is a messy mop of dust. There’s blood on the seat’s headrest behind him. Blood masks half his face and his entire body is covered in dirt. The video circulated by Aleppo Media Centre shows a man in a reflector jacket carrying Daqneesh into the ambulance amidst shouts. He places the boy down on the seat, where Daqneesh wipes his hand over his face. He takes his hand away and looks at the blood that’s left there.

The video and photographs of Daqneesh have spurred public international outrage. And amongst the outrage are calls for the world to do more to end Syria’s Civil War – the “forever war” that now involves Russia, ISIS, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Free Syrian Army. Although the United States once funded a program to train Syrian rebels, it’s now defunct.

Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to the Middle East and Texas A&M professor, spent time in Syria. Crocker says Daqneesh is now the poster child for all the suffering children of Syria.

“It’s important to remember, sadly, he is not a unique case,” Crocker says. “A dozen other children were wounded in those bombings on Wednesday. Other children in Aleppo were killed yesterday. It just goes on and on and on.”

But Crocker says whether this will be a tipping point in international involvement in the conflict depends on U.S. reaction.

“Like it or not, we are still the world’s leader. If we don’t move no one’s going to move,” Crocker says. “So it’s really a question of what this country will do.”

So far, Crocker says the Obama administration, and President Barack Obama himself, have shown a tendency toward inaction.

“Whether the spectacle of this wounded child and the upcoming report will finally get him to move, frankly, I don’t know,” Crocker says. “He seems to have an incredible resistance to doing anything.”

State actors – the Syrian government and Russia and its support – are responsible for the carnage, Crocker says. There are actions we could take that we’re not taking.

“We could simply make clear to the Syrian regime and the Russian supporters that anytime there is an airstrike that has targeted civilians in Syria, we’re going to respond with stand-off attacks against Syrian military targets,” Crocker says.

The U.S. mantra seems to be: “We can’t solve all the world’s problems, so we won’t try to solve any of the world’s problems,” Crocker says.

“I’ve been frankly appalled by our inaction,” he says. “There are no good options here. But the worst option by far … is to do nothing.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.