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Abstract

The Syrian refugee crisis can be described as one of the biggest, if not largest, humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. The crisis is a result of an ongoing civil war between rebel groups and the government forces of the Assad regime. Since the beginning of the war in 2011, over 400,000 have been killed and a combined 11 million have been displaced either internally or externally from their homes (Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018). The United Nations and the international community have openly expressed discontent with the dealings of the Assad regime, and as a result, have attempted to aid this struggling nation ridden with extreme violence. With more than 11 million displaced Syrians seeking refuge in other nation states across the world, various states have provided more lenient measures and policies to offer legal refugee resettlement within their respective borders (Morico 2017). However, the response has differed greatly on a state by state basis, with the United States resettling an inadequate number of Syrian refugees. According to the State Department, near the end of President Obama’s term in 2016, the U.S. had resettled 15,479 Syrian refugees. In 2017, the country let in 3,024. Horrifyingly, the National Public Radio has stated that by April 2018, the United States had only taken in 11 Syrian refugees (Amos 2018). These numbers are close to nothing in the grand scheme of over 11 million refugees displaced worldwide. Meanwhile nation states, such as Germany, Canada, and neighboring states of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, have implemented liberal refugee policies to alleviate the crisis, despite the hardships that resettling thousands, or millions, of refugees would bring to the state. The American response to the severity of the crisis has accomplished little to alleviate the growing issue. Our response is troubling, thus sparking the question why our response to this injustice has been so limited in scope, while other world powers have accepted thousands or millions within their borders. This has created an unnecessarily hard burden on the neighboring countries around Syria, which have struggled to relocate and provide for millions of displaced refugees within their often fragile borders. These nations, including Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, do not have the resources and adequate social structures to provide aid for millions, as the United States and other superpowers could do more readily. Furthermore, states and international organizations have responded to the crisis by providing millions in aid and support for relocation, something that the United States has not done to the same extent. Therefore, there is an apparent need to analyze why the response from the U.S. has been drastically different and to ponder potential solutions to alleviate the burden and provide the proper support needed to help Syrians, but to also assist in lifting the burden from other struggling countries by aiding Syrian refugee resettlement. As a world superpower, we cannot turn a blind eye to an increasingly large humanitarian crisis. So, why has the United States’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis been drastically different compared to the responses from other nations? This paper will analyze how Islamophobia, xenophobia, the current state of refugee policies in the U.S., and shifts in administrations and ideologies from liberal to conservative, have shaped our response T POLITICAL ANALYSIS · VOLUME XIX · 2019 33 to the largest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. Furthermore, by drawing comparisons to the reactions of other nation states, this paper will discuss how conservatism has influenced our foreign policy towards Syria, and has created a political environment that is unreceptive to accepting a large influx of refugees into the country, thus leading to inaction on our part. Although a nation’s foreign policy is shaped by numerous factors, by drawing comparisons between liberal and conservative approaches from other nations, it demonstrated that conservative, nationalist views have led to insubstantial refugee resettlement efforts by the United States. Furthermore, under international law and the norm of “Responsibility to Protect”, why has the United States and others not intervened to stop the ongoing and expanding crisis? As the research explains, inadequacies in the structure of the Responsibility to Protect guidelines set out by the United Nations, as a result of support from Russia and China for the Assad regime, has blocked potential intervention efforts.

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