Just like with every bit of news in the digital age, the American attack on Syria Thursday has produced a stream of knee-jerk and largely uniformed reactions on social media. Facebook is filled with armchair generals and foreign policy “experts.” Those are easy to take, dismiss and move on when it involves silly responses on President Trump’s hair, fake news and mundane issues. In this case we’re talking about life and death, future foreign policy and the murder of children.
It’s more than concerning that there are still people buying the Syrian and Russian lines that the death of Syrians by chemicals weapons were the result of a rebel chemical weapons depot being hit by government airstrikes.
Every independent human right groups monitoring the situation, eye witness reports on the ground and every bit of intelligence we have points to (Russian-made) Syrian warplanes dropping the chemical weapons.
There is precedent. It is universally accepted that Assad with an even larger casualty toll. He used sarin gas to attack an area outside of Damascus.
There is reason to logically deduce that Assad thought there would be little to no consequences from his attack. President Obama famously declared a “red line” of chemical weapons use. He then did nothing when they were used. President Trump, as a private citizen, urged Obama not to attack Syria or demanded at the very least, he go to Congress first. Trump’s orders Thursday contradict this. Since taking office, the Trump administration signaled that removing Assad was not a priority. With all this, why wouldn’t Assad think he could act with impunity.
We don’t know the effectiveness (if any) of the Tomahawk missile attack on the air base from which the warplanes what dropped the chemical bombs came. There are reports that the Trump administration gave a heads-up to the Russians on the ground who may have aided in moving military assets from the base before the attack.
So what happens from here? Does Trump tweet himself into another corner? Is he satisfied with a symbolic measure against Assad (assuming that is what Thursday’s attack is). Do we impose a no-fly zone? Do we attempt to ground the Syrian air force outright? What do the Russians do or not do?
All of this remains to be seen. Maybe we can dispense with the “Bombs are not the answer!” posts for now.