April 22, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
As Christian leaders and retired military personnel, we are writing to encourage your administration to develop and present to the American public a comprehensive strategy for US engagement in resolving the ongoing crisis in Syria. With more than 140,000 people dead and 9 million driven from their homes, Syria is a failed state that is already threatening its fragile neighbors and endangering world peace.
As the world's most powerful nation, America's moral credibility is on the line. The US must show leadership, specifically focusing on providing aid for the millions of refugees, protecting Christian minorities and other vulnerable populations from targeted violence, and working toward an effective and inclusive peace process that will end this war. These are daunting challenges, and we realize that there are no easy answers. But we ask you to redouble your efforts to meet these challenges.
America's national security is also at stake. We are well aware that the US cannot involve itself in every conflict within other nations. But, we know that the world is too small to believe that what happens beyond US borders has no impact on her citizens. The conflict in Syria is destabilizing an already volatile region. The recent spate of car bombs in Lebanon, increased cross-border attacks, and militarization of civilian populations is a clear indication that the conflict in Syria has already spread into neighboring countries. Jordan is facing the inevitable pressures a large refugee population places upon its limited natural resources, including increasingly problematic water shortages. The longer the violence continues, the greater the damage to the entire region.
Coupled with these grave security threats is the mounting humanitarian crisis for refugees as well as the 9 million Syrians in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The total number of refugees fleeing into neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and even Iraq is expected to reach 4 million in 2014, putting great strain on these countries' infrastructure and resources. Already in Lebanon, Syrian refugees make up 20% of the country's population and in Iraq they are spilling into regions with strong Al-Qaeda affiliations.
Each and every person who has been forced out of their homes, cut off from water, food, and medical care, and made witness to unimaginable violence is precious human being made in God's image. Secretary Kerry has called the crisis "grotesque." The daily cries for relief from Syrian civilians must not go unanswered.
We are not naive idealists, blind to the political, economic and security challenges associated either with making peace or with providing aid on the scale that is needed. Our missionaries, relief workers, and men and women in uniform are all too aware of the barriers and threats to those trying to reach remote and inaccessible regions. But the fact that a situation is difficult and complex does not absolve the United States of its moral obligations as a world leader.
In addition to addressing the humanitarian crisis, persecuted Christian minorities and women and children are at risk of human trafficking. Without a negotiated peace that protects these populations, Christians will continue to face violence from jihadists and radical elements and women and children will be the victims of sexual violence and abuse. The United States must stand up for these especially vulnerable victims, by advocating that their representatives have a place at the negotiating table. It is a grave mistake to allow only the groups with guns a role in negotiating what a peace would entail.
Please use your administration's influence with the UN Security Council and international community and the full range of tools at your disposal to bring all parties together to end the conflict, to protect vulnerable civilians, and to provide the life-saving humanitarian assistance that is urgently needed. As you do so we stand ready to support you with our prayers and actions.
Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance
Former Chairman Joint Chiefs, General Henry Shelton, Ret
Admiral William Owens, Ret
Major General George Buskirk, Ret
Major General Roger R. Blunt, Ret
Major General Buford "Buff" Blount, Ret
Rear Admiral Stuart Platt, Ret
Brigadier General Pat Foote, Ret
Brigadier General Ted Vander Els, Ret
Brigadier General Michael Dunn, Ret