The Syrian Civil War should be the premier political debate, not the refugees fleeing it. When a fire hose is out of control, do you scramble to figure out where and how to catch the water? Common sense tells us to shut off the supply of war to the hose. Refugees flooding Europe and causing national panic in the United States are a result of the Syrian Civil War—the same war no one is discussing.

Refugees are at the heart of America’s fears today. Yet somehow we fail to make the connection that those refugees are an issue because of Syria. The lack of focus on the Syrian Civil War certainly isn’t because of a lack of coverage: It’s all been out in the open for some time, even some aspects of the war that probably should not. I remember reading an article in Foreign Policy Magazine while I was abroad in Afghanistan that said Assad had limited time before the revolution began. This war has been on the way for a long time.

Syria is not an economic powerhouse. In fact, most of Syria is barren desert and does not contribute in an economic sense to the country. Much of that land, today, is in utter turmoil. Syria is subject to droughts and dust storms. The most recent drought ran from 2006-2011. The Syrian Civil War began March 15, 2011. VICE reported the drought could have been the worst the country has seen in almost 900 years. The war and drought may be linked, but the conflict’s roots are more complicated than a drought alone. Still, the drought probably helped fuel the social unrest that eventually led to full-blown conflict. The drought has been going on for five years.

Many believe the next brutal war might be fought over potable water or food. Wars are often fought over resources of some kind. Syria has a limited supply of life-giving resources to draw from. The dust storms that have long plagued Syria are getting worse and the Syrian Civil War is likely responsible. But Syria has had problems before their economic and environmental ones. Damascus and the Levant have long been a center of violence and prolonged conflict.

Damascus was the capital of the first caliphate, the Umayyad Caliphate. That has a significant impact on the country’s cultural importance in the region. Damascus was the capital of the Ummayad Caliphate for a short time, from 661-744. Ever since, Damascus, and Syria as a whole, have had an Islamic identity and heritage. In fact, the Ummayad Caliphate is viewed by many as a Muslim golden age.

But following the many conquests in the region by foreign militaries, many cultures and peoples have been left behind. During the Ottoman Empire, Christians, Alawis, Yazidi, Kurds, Jews, and Druze lived in neighborhoods now within Syrian borders. Sunnis shared the community with them.

Today, they’re exchanging bullets.

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