Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said officials can’t jump from doing nothing in Syria to sending in the Marines.
U.S. officials must use a host of tools to bring about a political change there as well as deal with vast humanitarian suffering, which has left more than 9 million people in need of aid, she told NPR on Feb. 7. They can’t rush from no action to putting boots on the ground there, she said.
“What President Obama has instructed all of us to do is just look under every stone, look at every tool that we have in the toolbox and see what we can deploy so that we don’t confront a choice between doing nothing on the one hand and sending in the Marines on the other,” Power told NPR.
As leaders provide humanitarian aid to Syrians and work diplomatic angles to press for a regime change there, military leaders have been at the ready to respond if called.
Top leaders of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit told reporters in December that they were preparing to put boots on the ground in Syria during their eight-month deployment. Col. Matthew St. Clair, the MEU commander, said Marines were preparing for a situation that would require them to make landfall, according to U.S. News and World Report.
“As discussion of the strikes was occurring, we did some of our own prudent planning,” St. Clair said, according to U.S. News and World Report. “If strikes did occur — that means aircraft are potentially flying — there would have to be the capability to conduct a recovery of either the aircraft or the pilots if they were shot down. That’s a capability the [MEU] has.”
Cody said preparations for a mission in Syria began even earlier, the magazine reported. When the ARG deployed in March for the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden, they anticipated assisting with a humanitarian crisis there, he said.
“When we left, we thought we’d be involved in Syria in terms of humanitarian assistance,” Cody said, according to the magazine. “The refugee crisis was spilling into all the neighboring countries.”
In her interview with NPR, Power stressed that as long as long as Bashar al-Assad remains in power in there, Syrian people will continue to suffer. The international community must continue pressing Russian colleagues to use the leverage they have to persuade Assad to step down and help establish a transitional government body, she said.
The entire interview can be heard here: