Secretary of State-designate Anthony Blinken said that former President Obama “failed” in Syria from several different perspectives. “And it’s something that I will take with me for the rest of my days,” he added.
“We failed to prevent a horrific loss of life. We failed to prevent massive displacement of people internally in Syria and, of course, externally as refugees,” the former Obama deputy Secretary of State and deputy National Security Adviser explained in an interview. The foreign refugee crisis reached its height in Europe in 2015, he noted. At roughly the same time, Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against their own people. Although Obama previously said such behavior was a “red line,” he did not punish Syria for its action.
Blinken also criticized outgoing President Donald Trump for surrendering “leverage” in Syria. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has more or less turned that up to pulling out entirely in Syria,” Blinken remarked.
The Syrian Civil War
American policymakers should not feel too bad about their self-professed failure in Syria. Over the past 20 years, there has been plenty of failure to go around. For example, just a few months ago, the long-running Syrian Civil War seemed to be ending. Now, despite the efforts of many, it looks like the conflict might be entering a new phase.
Like most civil wars, this conflict began with protests against what many people considered to be an unsympathetic central government. Similar demonstrations occurred elsewhere in the Arab world.
In several cases, Arab Spring protests ousted longtime dictators. But Bashar al-Assad and his Ba’ath Party clung to power. Rather than compromising with protestors, Assad brutally suppressed rebel groups. Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, was unable to stop the bloodshed.
The local conflict soon became multinational. Russia, Assad’s traditional ally, quickly intervened on his behalf. However, rather than send the regular army unto the breach, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched the shadowy Wagner Group of mercenaries. The Russians and Syrians soon began to overpower the opposition.
Eager to protect its interests in the area and prevent Syria from becoming a Russian puppet state, the U.S. began supporting rebel groups. This support eventually became armed assistance.
At one point, American and Russian warships gathered in the eastern Mediterranean and the prospect of global war loomed. Although these tensions soon cooled, neither side backed down, and the international conflict continued.
American decision-makers were unwilling to make a full commitment or leave the country. They chose the middle path, and that approach does not work very often. So, it once again seemed that Assad had the upper hand.
Then, Turkey invaded northern Syria. At first, it seemed the Turks had little interest beyond extreme northern Syria. Frequently, when one state is in turmoil, its neighbors take advantage of the situation to expand their interests. Now, it seems that Turkish interests may involve reconstructing the Ottoman Empire, at least in part. This empire flourished for several hundred years. Highlights include a lasting victory in the Crusades and a near-takedown of Vienna in 1683.
The bottom line is that no one is sure what will happen next. But crisis is also an opportunity. So, a Biden administration has a chance to reverse some previous shortcomings.
Combat Contractors in Syria
As mentioned, American military strength is critical in Syria. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, rebel groups and their U.S. allies were on the ropes. Now, it seems like the rebels at least have a chance to negotiate from a position of strength.
Under American law, contractors cannot engage in offensive operations. That limitation separates contractors like KBR from mercenaries like Wagner. But there are still a number of things contractors can do.
These individuals serve in important combat support roles. In addition to cooks, doctors, and mechanics, contractors are also morale officers and chaplains. In other words, contractors give regular servicemembers the will to fight and the means to fight.
Contractors also hold down the fort. Many regular servicemembers do not like guard duty and other defensive deployments. But contractors embrace these roles. They escort supply convoys, verify IDs at checkpoints, and perform other essential services.
Finally, contractors train rebel soldiers. Typically, recruits are passionate about overthrowing Assad but have almost no military skills. Contractor trainers transform this passion into purpose. So, they can hold their own against Syrian government forces that are not afraid to use chemical weapons and Russian mercenaries who will do almost anything for a paycheck.
Noncombat Contractors in Syria
Even “forever wars” eventually end. America has learned from experience, much of it in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region that winning the peace is at least as important as winning the war. Contractors serve a vital role in this phase, as well.
The extended Syrian Civil War has displaced millions of people. These individuals usually do not return home until the area is largely secure and basic services are restored.
Part of a contractor’s combat support role is combat prevention. Patrols discourage militant activity. That is especially true in this case. Contractors know what to look out for during patrols, so they are very adept at keeping people safe.
Power plants, schools, hospitals, and so on must usually be rebuilt from the ground up. Contractors know how to manage local talent to get these projects completed and make the area more attractive for returning refugees.
Injury Compensation Available
No matter what phase the Syrian Civil War is in, or how contractors are involved in it, the Defense Base Act usually applies.
No-fault injury compensation is available if the victim was a private contractor in an overseas war zone. The nature of the victim’s duties is largely irrelevant. Military contractors and Peace Corps volunteers are usually eligible for compensation.
The contractor can work for any U.S. government agency. Most private military contractors work for the DoD. Others work for the State Department or another arm of the U.S. government. Additionally, some contractors who work for some sympathetic foreign governments are eligible for DBA compensation. Likewise, U.S. citizenship or residency is not a qualification either.
The war zone component is very broadly defined as well. Any country with any U.S. military presence is a war zone.
All these victims must only establish a nexus (indirect connection) between their deployments and their injuries. If Jack is hurt when a bomb goes off in a market, even if he is off duty, the DBA normally applies.
For more information about specific DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.