The Sanford School of Public Policy hosted a roundtable panel discussion on the current crisis in Syria Monday night.
Moderator Robin Kirk, director of the Duke Human Rights Center, said Sanford convened the event to discuss the current situation in Syria and talk about the various political factors at play. Panelists went over a variety of topics, including the extent to which the United States should become involved in the crisis and potential settlements that may lie in Syria’s future.
Panelist Philip Bennett, director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, commenced the talk by discussing the role that media has played in the Syrian crisis. His primary concern was that actual news coming out of the war had been shuffled into the background as political conflicts in Washington over the crisis have come to the forefront.
“A curtain has descended on this story,” he said.
Bennett added that the media was more focused on how Congress and President Barack Obama were arguing over the Syrian crisis rather than the humanitarian aspects of the situation itself.
The panelists went on to discuss the factors that were contributing to the current state of affairs in Syria.
Abdeslam Maghraoui, associate professor of the practice of political science and director of undergraduate studies, presented three possible resolutions for the Syrian crisis: a military victory for either side, the collapse of the current presiding government or both sides coming to an agreement.
Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science, said the situation was too complicated for there to be a specific resolution, but added that a military victory on either side would be unlikely given the current state of affairs. He said he was hopeful that with pressure from foreign countries, the government and the Free Syrian Army would be able to broker an agreement and end the war.
“Today, we come to the realization that there is a stalemate, and a military solution is beyond anyone’s reach,” he said.
World leaders have failed to resolve the crisis in Syria because such conflicts were not common until the end of the Cold War, Jentiseon said.
He added that conflicts overseas prior to the end of the Cold War had primarily been between different nations at war with each other. Atrocities committed in Rwanda in the 1990s and the intrastate conflicts following the Arab Spring introduced a different kind of international conflict to be dealt with—one in which the citizens of a state were at conflict with each other or with the government.
“The world had rules for when one country invaded another, but not really for when one country was killing its own people,” Jentleson said.
After the first hour, the discussion opened to those in the audience, which consisted primarily of Duke students and members of the Durham community.
Maghraoui said that however the new regime would be structured, it would not resemble the old Syrian government.
A member of the audience brought up the possibility that the new regime would be heavily radicalized.
Maghraoui noted that the possibility of a highly radical regime replacing the current one is unlikely.
“My sense is that the radical elements are going to be excluded, that they are not going to be part of this,” he said.