Syrian Aid Hidden in 2015 Federal Budget



On Thursday Sept. 18, 2014, the Senate passed an important bill regarding the annual budget with an overwhelming 78 to 22 vote. This bill will provide funding to the government for the 2015 fiscal year and prevent a shutdown akin to the controversial shutdown that occurred in October of last year.

Each fiscal year, Congress must agree to a budget resolution or else all federal non-exempt services will be suspended until a resolution is passed.

Although the cooperation between the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate raises hope for future cooperation, a piece of legislation included in the budget that flew largely under the radar is the inclusion of funding to arm and train the Free Syrian Army until Dec. 11.

The Free Syrian Army is one of the few moderate rebel groups left in the region that are in opposition of both Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

The issue that many party members have with the addition of this particular piece of legislation is that the issue of Syrian intervention should be put to a separate vote and not tucked away in a vote on the annual budget.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, criticized intervention in an Associated Press article saying, “Intervention that destabilizes the Middle East is a mistake. And yet, here we are again, wading into a civil war.”

Kelly Cousins, a senior peace studies major, gives her insight, “I don’t feel in any way comfortable enough saying what the United States should definitively be doing in regards to ISIS, but I can say that from my perspective as a peace studies major, becoming more involved militarily has had bad consequences in the past. Trying to go into the Middle East (because I do feel that all of the countries there are deeply interconnected, and to affect one would be to involve them all to some degree) and alter attitudes and lifestyles is not our place nor in our power.”

By including the funding of the Free Syrian Army in budgetary legislation, it changes the conversation regarding intervention in Syria from “Should the United States aid Syria in its civil war?” to “How much aid should the United States give to Syria in its civil war?” Although this is an effective way for pro-intervention Congress members to pass legislation, the ethical side of hiding military support to Syria in a federal government spending bill, which includes reforms to civil service pensions and Medicare, remains to be seen.

Maggie Kavanagh, a junior peace studies major here at MC, says “[I] agree that aid is needed in the area, but that more focus is needed domestically with the possibility of ISIS members with US and UK passports.”

Tensions in Syria and Iraq, as well as the rest of the Middle East, should definitely be monitored moving forward, but the United States needs more effective and credible means of deciding on and dealing with those tensions.