Trump, Syria, and the never-ending circle of war
The killing never ends and the chaos never stops
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As for me, I wish that every ounce of poison gas owned by any Syrian be destroyed.
That President Donald Trump was deeply moved by the images of that televised horror is not something for which I will criticize or fault him – in fact, I am truly glad that the man is capable of being moved by such empathy, that he can see horrors and resolve that something must be done.
Trump, without meaning to, was the impetus for the Sarin gas attacks: His administration had, in recent days and weeks, signaled that the Obama policy of requiring Bashar Al-Assad, tyrant of Syria, to be removed from power before any peace could be installed.
His secretary of state, his ambassador to the UN, his own statements – they all signaled a willingness to accept Assad’s presence because it aligned us with Russia, who has been propping up the Assad regime, and because Trump had declared ISIS the bigger threat.
Assad needed to test this rhetoric and confirm whether the U.S. would leave him to conduct his war with impunity, which he thought likely given the many comments Trump has made as a candidate and president, which thus brings us to the deadly gas attack.
So here’s what bother me: first, the media elite are giving him a great deal of credit for this attack, and the more that I think about it, the less sure I am as to why. I suppose that it sends a “message” about using chemical weapons, which, sure, that is entirely possible.
Through the course of this war, maybe a few thousand, at most a few tens of thousands, of people have been killed by chemical weapons. This is a war crime, a crime against humanity, and horrific acts of a tyrant.
But how is dying from a chemical weapon so much different than dying from a barrel bomb dropped by a helicopter indiscriminately on a residential neighborhood? Or a Russian fighter-bomber blowing up schools? Or the tens of thousands of people in prison who are being tortured and raped and executed?
That’s not a criticism of Trump or anyone else in particular. It’s just bugging me that we act with such outrage at chemical weapons, and utter indifference at the more mundane horrors. So my question is: Why did the images of Sarin gas affect Trump more than the pictures of school children lying dead in the rubble?
Here’s the other problem, though: Now we’ve stuck our foot in the water of a civil war that may be the most complicated and intractable conflict we’ll see in a generation. What happens if Assad uses Sarin again? Are we going to launch more airstrikes? Are we going to expand our ground forces? Are we going to start ordering the CIA to move against the regime?
I hope to God that this works the way we all hope it will, I really do. But I have concerns about what comes next. I guess we’ll see.