Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin has a plan for the ongoing crisis in Syria, and unlike his opponents in the Republican and Democratic parties, it has practical details.
It’s a rare thing for a political candidate to offer up anything more than platitudes to back up their policy proposals during an election, but McMullin is hardly a conventional candidate. Unable to participate in the debates, the Independent candidate published his solution to Syria in an op-ed for Foreign Policy magazine Monday.
First and foremost, McMullin said that as president he will “end the policy of averting our eyes” from the Syrian crisis “in the hope they will disappear.” He plans to reestablish U.S. leadership on the international stage in order to work with allies to apply “tremendous pressure” on dictatorships responsible for humanitarian tragedies, including the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. McMullin’s strategy centers on utilizing American leadership to stave off problems before they become international crises.
McMullin’s willingness to put pressure on Assad does not necessarily equate to force. McMullin believes the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a “serious strategic error,” but also claimed that the Islamic State might not currently exist if the Obama administration acted earlier.
“He might have avoided the need to send thousands of troops to Iraq and Syria,” he said.
McMullin said he would determine how to best to respond to the situation in Syria based on the facts on the ground presented to him once he takes office. His strategy stands in stark contrast to the “rigid doctrines” prescribed by others.
Unlike his opponents, McMullin has first-hand, on the ground experience with Middle Eastern dictatorships and the people who suffer under them. He spent ten years working as an intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, forging relationships with sources who put their lives on the line daily. As an Arabic speaker who has spent time with actual Syrians, McMullin understands the complexities of the current crisis and has no illusions as to what can actually be done to solve it.
The Independent candidate dismissed Trump’s theory that the U.S. can partner with Russia to fight ISIS, pointing out that Russian bombing is part of the problem empowering the terrorist group. McMullin also criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s support for unending negotiations with Russia, despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s multiple failures in the past.
McMullin argued for establishing no-fly zones over “select parts of Syria” in an effort to take away Asssad’s aerial advantage over moderate rebel groups. The West’s uneasiness toward the Syrian question over the last five years allowed some of the moderate opposition groups to be hijacked by terrorist elements. This is exactly what Assad wants so that he can have an excuse to continue his violent crackdown, McMullin says.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff, warned in September that controlling the entirety of Syrian airspace would require war with Syria and Russia. McMullin admitted the no-fly zone is “not foolproof,” and said this is why they would exist in limited areas. He pointed to successful examples in Iraq following the Gulf War to show it can be done.
“Although Russia has taken advantage of American passivity to expand its presence in Syria, it has not shown any interest in pressing forward when it expects resistance,” said McMullin.
With no-fly zones in place, McMullin said he plans to partner with other countries to create humanitarian safe zones within rebel-held territory and provide support to the “besieged” Syrian moderates. He added that proper support of the moderates would help prevent “large-scale deployment of American forces” similar to the situation in Iraq.
McMullin’s plan goes beyond simply aiding the fight against Assad. He also argued for a U.S.-led negotiation to help create a post-Assad government followed by a rebuilding program that would prevent the resurgence of dictatorship or terrorist elements.
McMullin’s plan is undoubtedly bold and stands in stark contrast to the more abstract “plans” advanced by other candidates in the 2016 presidential race.
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