Syrian Strategy or Syrian Tragedy?

Trump does not seem to be racketing up toward war, nor does his administration seem to be signalling any interest in a ground invasion. And so comparisons to the Iraq War, while of course well intended, seem to me increasingly rather asinine.

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People continue to speculate on what Trump’s Syrian missile strike means for Trump’s longterm Syrian strategy. What I think many continue to miss, however, is that the administration has signalled little change in regard to their longterm strategy.

What has changed, per Nikki Haley, seems to be the administration’s take on chemical weapons. The missile strike was clearly meant as a limited, symbolic response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. This is obviously the case, given the warnings made to Russia that such a strike was incoming. Thus, we can see that the Trump administration, rather than offering a longterm strategy, hoped merely to signal that there must be no further use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.

I am distressed by the monolithic thinking that this strike has revealed among many critics of the administration. One missile strike a war does not make. Such a strike, indeed, seems to be as concise and as tactical as countless others taken by the Bushes and especially by Clinton. Trump does not seem to be racketing up toward war, nor does his administration seem to be signalling any interest in a ground invasion. And so comparisons to the Iraq War, while of course well intended, seem to me increasingly rather asinine.

Yes, we still need a longterm strategy in regard to Syria. And, honestly, it needs to be more robust than Trump has hitherto offered and more aggressive, I think, than Obama was ultimately willing to admit. Congress must be consulted. But in the end, it would be a travesty of human rights were we to allow a brutal dictator, who has repeatedly used chemical weapons, to return to power.

For the nonce, however, I hope this will force Assad’s hand away from continued war crimes.

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