Examining the Crisis in Syria

Conference Hosted by New America and Arizona State University’s Center on the Future of War and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Debate and Decision Series

Syria: Should the United States Do More?

Hosted by McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

US Navy Memorial, Burke Theater

701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20004


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Please note that you must RSVP separately for the McCain Institute Debate.

A livestream of the debate can be accessed at www.mccaininstitute.org/live.

Over the past three years, popular political protests in Syria led to mass state repression and the country’s descent into a devastating civil war. Over 190,000 people have been killed, countless more injured, and entire towns demolished. Nearly half of Syria’s 22 million people had fled their homes, either as refugees or internally displaced persons. The human cost of this conflict is extraordinary and the world’s great powers remain divided on coordinated international action, even as the situation has expanded to become a major regional conflict.

For some time, public U.S. debate and discussion on the Syrian crisis has been limited and presented in a binary fashion, as a choice between robust military action or marked disengagement. Then, in mid-2014, as the conflict significantly impacted Iraqi national security, the U.S. and a collection of allies began a series of focused military activities. The situation remains uncertain and there is a lack of consensus regarding U.S. policy objectives and strategy regarding the crisis in Syria.

This conference brings together experts on international law, the documentation of atrocities in Syria, reporting on the conflict, engaging social media, assessing the humanitarian and psycho-social impact of the war, and imagining more comprehensive solutions.

Conference panelists and moderators include: Peter Baker, White House Correspondent for the New York Times; Alexandra Brosnan, International Rescue Committee; Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Associate Editor, Washington Post; David Crane, Syracuse University School of Law; Jennifer Daskal, American University School of Law; Megan Price, Human Rights Data Analysis Group; George Sabra, President of the Syrian National Council; Randa Slim, Middle East Institute; Jim Zogby, Arab American Institute, with a keynote address from Amb. (ret) Robert Ford.

Following the conference is an evening debate on U.S. policy in Syria hosted by ASU's McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU.

Click here for more information on the McCain Institute Debate.

Please also note that live streaming will be available for all portions of the conference. Links and information on how to watch the conference live will be accessible on the event webpage by January 14.

Event Program:

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM: Registration Opens

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM: Welcome Remarks

Peter Bergen
New America 

Daniel Rothenberg
Arizona State University

9:15 AM - 10:30 AM: Atrocities, International Law, and Accountability

This panel outlines the current data and patterns regarding atrocities committed in the Syrian crisis and analyzes these events in relation to international human rights and humanitarian law along with a review of current and future efforts to ensure accountability for these violations.


Megan Price
Human Rights Data Analysis Group 

David Crane
Syracuse University School of Law

Jennifer Daskal
American University 

George Sabra
Syrian Democratic People's Party and the Syrian National Council


Daniel Rothenberg

10:40 AM - 11:55 AM: Media Portrayal of the Crisis

This panel provides an overview of how the Syrian crisis has been covered by the U.S. and international media.


Hannah Allam
McClatchy Newspapers 

Peter Baker
New York Times 

Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post 

Honey Al Sayed
Syrian Journalist


Peter Bergen

12:05 PM - 1:05 PM: Luncheon Keynote Address 

Ambassador Robert Ford
U.S. Ambassador to Syria, retired and Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute

1:15 PM - 2:40 PM: Regional Humanitarian Crisis and Policy Responses

This panel reviews the scope of the regional humanitarian crisis, considering issues of refugees, internally displaced persons, the situation of women and children, and the psychological impact of the conflict and considers current policy responses.


Alexandra Brosnan
International Rescue Committee 

Farah Atassi,
National Syrian Women's Association 

Kelly Clements
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration 

Oubai Shahbandar
Former U.S. Department of Defense Analyst

David Kilcullen
Caerus Global Solutions


Leila Hilal

2:55-3:55 pm
2:55 PM - 3:55 PM: What Can Be Done?

This panel considers a number of specific policy actions to address the crisis in Syria, including strategies of regional political coordination and military action.


Jim Zogby
Arab American Institute   

Thomas O. Melia
U.S. Department of State 

Barak Barfi
Research Fellow, New America Aaron Y. Zelin, The Washington Institute


Jorce Karam

4:00 PM: Concluding Remarks at FHI 360

5:00 PM: McCain Institute Debate Begins

Team 1:

Andrew Tabler
Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute   

Mike Doran
Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute

Team 2:

Aaron David Miller
Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars 

Joshua Landis
Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor, The University of Oklahoma College of International Studies


Elise Labott

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to excellence, access and impact. ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good; and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.


We would like to thank the members of the ASU and New America teams who are helping to support this event. We would also like to especially acknowledge and thank the Syrian American community in Phoenix, Arizona who have helped to advise the event.

For more information or to learn ways to support the conference, please contact Kathryn Scheckel, Office of the President, Arizona State University by email at Kathryn.Scheckel@asu.edu.