Key details about Donald Trump’s decision to launch missile strike on airbase allegedly linked to deadly civilian gas attack
At least The Guardian has the sense to use “allegedly”…!
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is by Western democratic standards a despot, but he is not a stupid man. Far from it. Let’s perform a mental exercise, here, for a moment:Let us say that you are the head of a country, fighting a vicious, nasty civil war. You have the support of one Great Power, but nearly everyone else – including the world’s one surviving superpower – doesn’t like you very much.
Your opponents are a mish-mash of ideologies, but many are various species of radical Islamists (you, by the way, may be a despot, but you are head of one of the last surviving secular states in the Middle East, opposed to Islamic jihadism, and protective of the rights of women and minority religions such as Christianity). The aforementioned superpower supports some of your opponents, but opposes others, making it difficult to predict exactly how it’s going to react in any given situation.
Despite all this, you are making headway in your civil war – in fact, you are making good progress, with the support of your Great Power ally. You are, in effect, winning, albeit slowly.
Now, I ask you: is this the moment you choose to gas your own people, in a way that has little or no military effect, but you have to know would elicit worldwide condemnation – hardening the stance of people who already don’t like you much anyway, and likely turning actual or potential supporters (such as the new President of the aforementioned superpower) against you?
Not if you have a modicum of intelligence, it’s not! And as I said above, President Assad may be many things, but stupid is not one of them. The Syrian government has said that they launched a conventional attack on a rebel weapons depot – which is a completely legitimate military target – and that this attack released chemical munitions possessed by the rebels and stored in that depot.
That is at least plausible. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that may be exactly what happened. See: Is Assad to blame for the chemical weapons attack in Syria? and Evidence Calls Western Narrative About Syrian Chemical Attack Into Question, for two accounts of the evidence.
The information cited in the preceding links calls into serious question the current dominant narrative on the incident. Would rebels bent on the overthrow of a government be willing to accept civilian casualties on their own side, if it led to widespread condemnation – and even attacks – against the government they are attempting to overthrow? I leave that to your consideration.
Now, I am aware that the President of the United States has access to sources of information and intelligence that the rest of us do not. And perhaps he found that information convincing. But I am sorry to say that at this point in history, I am not entirely sure that I trust our intelligence services to be 100% objective and apolitical. If you do, I fear that you are – shall we say – a bit naive. That is also making the assumption that the decision was drive entirely by intelligence assessments, and not in part by his understandable outrage at the gruesome effects of chemical agents on defenseless civilians.
[If it was Assad, it was despicable. But if it was allowed to happen, or even set up, by those bent on his overthrow, it was just as reprehensible. Chemical weapons are vile, no matter who is using / stockpiling them.]
Finally, there is the fact that this incident plays directly into the hands, not only of the Syrian rebels, but of others, who – shall we say – do not have our best interests at heart. Do we really want to see Syria become yet another failed state in the Middle East, overrun by militant jihadists? That is the likely outcome, if Assad is overthrown! The chaos stemming from the destabilization of Syrian has already caused many problems throughout the region and world (including and especially Europe); its complete collapse would worsen those problems exponentially.
Given the questions that exist about this situation, I very much fear that we “jerked our trigger” in launching that Tomahawk attack, possibly making an already-bad situation even worse, and further complicating our relations with Russia, at a time when they’re already rocky. That is, to my mind, both unnecessary and unwise.
Anyway, points being: a) don’t believe everything the mainstream media and politicians tell you – which is not something I should need to say, to most of those who will see this – or jump to the most immediate and “obvious” conclusions before all the evidence is in; and b) don’t let presuppositions and prejudices from Cold War days colour our diplomatic and military maneuverings.
I hope and pray that by firing Tomahawks at Syria we have not, instead, shot ourselves in the foot.
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