No one is innocent. There is no better example than Northern Syria where the People’s Protection Unit, YPG, having fought loyally on behalf of the United States of America against the Islamic State now fight the Turkish military. At time of this writing Afrin has fallen and President Erdogan of Turkey has announced further military operations will push the YPG out of the remaining regions in Northern Syria and continue into Iraq. Likely before this article is published those operations will have begun and the United States will have decided which ally to side with. When considering that question most people desperately look for a moral high ground, subconsciously or consciously demonizing the other side so the deaths which occur because of the decision will not weigh too heavily on their conscience. Unfortunately, there is no undirtied side although there are combatants more morally reprehensible than others.
An unexhausted list of crimes for the YPG includes using child soldiers and destroying dozens of villages with doubtable military justifications. Furthermore, many Syrian Kurds resent the YPG occupation and the organization’s repressive nature. However, let no one forget Turkey has an atrocious list of its own which includes bombing countless villages displacing thousands of civilians, firing upon civilians carrying white flags, and supporting the Al-Nusra Front who are known for their extreme violence against Kurds and Armenians. Unsurprisingly the Permanent People’s Tribunal recently held a trial concerning allegations against the Turkish military.
If America allows Turkey to continue unhindered there likely will be further destruction and loss of life, but if the People’s Protection Unit is allowed to remain in control of what they currently occupy in Northern Syria many locals will struggle under its yoke. From a strategic standpoint it is rational to allow Turkey to do as it pleases. The United States needs Turkey as a valuable ally against Russia and an ally in the Middle East if it ever wants to reclaim the influence lost over the region in the last decade. Alas, from a moral perspective it is impossible to justify allowing such violence to happen when one has the ability to stop it.
The best chance for the least destructive outcome to occur is for the United States to mediate between the two sides and to personally oversee the peaceful removal of the YPG so Turkey ceases attacks. Turkey will attack if the YPG remains in command or if North Syria remains a hotspot for groups Erdogan views as terrorists. Therefore, America should prevent a power vacuum from forming and avoid creating an opportunity or excuse for those like Turkey to attack by fulfilling humanitarian needs of the locals, petitioning the UN to deploy a significant peacekeeper force for the purpose of ensuring the security of the Kurds or station significantly more American soldiers to prevent further assault on the region and reestablish a basic education system so former militia men can learn another peaceful trade.
Joe Swanson writes for the GW College Republicans' website. The opinions expressed on this blog are their own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official views of the GW College Republicans.