The whole situation reminds one of the disastrous Iraq war, where the U.S. jumped headfirst into an ill-fated conflict under dubious pretenses of Iraqi WMDs. Despite having no obvious upsides and plenty of potentially catastrophic downsides, Trump seems intent on going ahead with military intervention. Such a decision on the U.S’s part would likely lead to only more chaos and suffering.
The whole idea of waging war in Syria seems to fly in the face of Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Seeing the Trump of the campaign trail rail against the Iraq war and the politicians who caused it was a genuinely cathartic moment, with the GOP frontrunner repudiating not only that one particular debacle, but the entire neoconservative doctrine that led to such a war in the first place. Trump was supposed bring about a new era in American foreign policy, one that abandoned the absurd regime change policies of previous presidents and gave primacy to American interests rather than some malformed notion of “making the world safe for democracy." Instead, Trump now wants America to take the role of global police force, attacking any regime that we deem as sufficiently evil. While there may be genuinely good intentions behind such a notion, there are enormous risks involved and the whole effort may bring about disastrous results.
The situation in Syria is an extremely complex and sensitive one, with nearly every major world power having interests in the region. Russia has already affirmed its support of the Assad government, and has warned the U.S. that any military action will be met with a severe response from Moscow. Iran too is fully behind the Syrian government, and the Iranian government has already condemned the attacks as a military crime. China has also condemned the attack, and the Chinese government sees itself as having legitimate interests in supporting the Assad regime, even militarily. Conflict with Syria is thus not merely a matter of opposing a single rogue Middle Eastern regime, but instead has the potential to develop into a full-blown international military crisis.
Trump’s statement on the decision to bomb Syria repeated many of the tired platitudes associated with neoconservative interventionist foreign policy. Assad is not a head of state or even a man, but is rather a “monster” that the U.S. must vanquish. This incendiary rhetoric is very worrisome, as the history of U.S. regime change in the Middle East is one riddled with fatal errors and military action resulting in unintended and catastrophic consequences.
Military action in Syria is something that must be opposed. Merely disposing of Assad is not going to be an easy task when he’s backed by powerful allies like Russia and China. Directly attacking Assad could very well result in a full-blown conflict between numerous countries that the U.S. does not need. Even if we were to get rid of Assad, that opens up the possibility of a power vacuum similar to the one left after the disposal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, leaving the region open to extreme Jihadi groups which would only prolong the suffering of Syrian citizens.
While the situation in Syria is a terrible one, cavalierly leaping into war is a risky move that puts everyone involved in danger, both in Syria and in the U.S. Hopefully, the U.S. will come to its senses.