To understand why bombing the Syrian airbase was necessary, it is important to understand the Syrian conflict. The conflict in Syria, like all middle eastern conflicts, is a complex issue involving historical competition among two general Muslim factions and a power struggle for control of natural resources, mainly oil. Its complexity makes it too complex to explain in simple terms but for brevity sake, accept that the Syrian conflict is a proxy war between the United States and Russia with Sunni and Shiite ideologies intermixed. As if that wasn’t enough, the radical Muslims are trying to create a base of operations from which to continue to expand their radicalism worldwide.
Attempting to make the Syrian conflict one of ISIS versus the world ignores the other fundamental dynamics at play. In its very basic terms, Syria is divided into four wars; Bashar al-Assad backed by Iran (Shia), ISIS extremists Muslims, the Kurds, an ethnic minority in Syria, and the United States versus Russia in a proxy war for influence over the region. The United States has had covert operations in the region supporting forces against those supported by Russia, who has actual military units on the ground.
What complicates the discussion even further, besides the Muslim divide, is that the United States and Russia are not posturing to eradicate ISIS, but rather are backing different players to control the region and then deal with ISIS on their own terms. This is a very simplistic definition of the Syrian conflict but it should suffice to give the reader a general understanding of the problem.
The United States established a policy that defined the use of chemical weapons a redline that, if crossed by al-Assad, would result in U.S. military action. The “red line” against the use of chemical weapons became the doctrine of the U.S. in 2012. On August 21, 2013, the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Ghouta.
Congress authorized the U.S. president to use military force against the government of Syria on September 6, 2013. Then president Barack Obama, did not deploy U.S. military assets because the Russian government had brokered a deal whereby the al-Assad regime promised to relinquish all chemical weapon stockpiles.
Last Tuesday, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against the Syrian rebels in the northern part of the country. Although the Syrian government denied it had been responsible. However, it is generally agreed that the logistics required to mount the chemical attack could only come from the Syrian government. Obviously, the Syrian regime lied about having chemical weapons after promising to relinquish them.
Donald Trump ordered the use of Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Syrian airbase Khan Sheikhoun, the likely base for the chemical attacks, last Friday.
There is debate on how effective the U.S. bombing was or whether Trump had the authority, both domestic and international, to attack Syria. Those debates will go on for a long time.
What is important to understand is that three major things were at play.
First, this was a test of whether the stated United States policy against the use of chemical weapons in Syria was the policy of the Donald Trump administration. Obviously, it is.
Second, the ongoing Russia-gate scandal in the Trump administration needed a distraction and distancing of the Russia-connection to Trump. Many are of the mistaken belief that the Russia-gate scandal is a quid pro quo of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It is not because Russia does not operate that way historically. The scandal is about Russian influence in the United States elections and how it affected the election of Donald Trump. What Trump or his proxies knew or participated in is still open for debate. The bombing gave Trump an opportunity to prove he is not Putin’s puppet. However, the Russian intrigue allows for useful idiots to believe that they are not acting on the behest of Russia.
Finally, the bombing sent a clear message that although the Trump Administration is facing internal domestic issues, the United States, for the most part, still adheres to the global doctrine of enforcing its morality across the globe. For the most part, the Trump message is that the United States will still act as the policemen of the world.
Obviously, this creates a dichotomy for the “America First” doctrine that Donald Trump has embraced. The nativists that support Trump feel that he is taking the U.S. back to being involved in international affairs. This, and the other political points of contention, such as whether Trump had legal authority to launch the attack or whether his agenda is otherwise then protecting United States interests across the globe, are topics that are always argued in every similar situation.
But, looking at the attack on the Syrian base strictly from the point of view of whether it was the right thing to do to protect the interests of the United States across the globe on both morality and in keeping its broad policies intact on the international front, then Donald Trump did the right thing.
We must accept that fact whether we believe that Donald Trump is on the right track with his political agenda, or not. We should focus on what is wrong and accept when his actions are correct.