This article first appeared in New English Review.
It's always hard to write an opinion piece on a big story like this when the dust has yet to settle. As I write this on Friday, a Russian warship is steaming toward the American ships that launched the missiles in the east Mediterranean. World opinion is mixed as are the responses from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Both sides have valid arguments for or against.
One thing that is being pointed out is that is a reversal from private citizen Trump's previous statements that we should stay out of Syria. That has been my feeling as well (with the exception of taking out ISIS wherever they are). In my view, there are few good actors involved in the Syrian civil war, and what's wrong with letting them exhaust themselves? This is the point Islam critic Daniel Pipes is making today. On the other hand, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is applauding Trump's move. The Israelis, Saudis and Jordanians are also on board (their governments at least).
There is a part of me that says we should build a wall around the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) and let them stew in their own cauldron of hate and violence. Nobody gets in and nobody gets out. But that is the Joe Six-pack side of me talking.The wiser voices say that this horrific civil war must be brought to an end so that the Syrian refugees can return home. But who can predict who will fill the power vacuum if Assad falls?
I think President Trump showed his decent side in reversing course after he saw the images of innocent people, women, children, and babies who were savagely murdered by Assad's use of sarin gas, a war crime without argument. You can argue that he should have gotten support from Congress or gotten other allies on board first, but how long can you delay when someone is gassing innocent civilians and you decide a response is appropriate?
The question is what do we do next assuming this incident doesn't ignite a conflict with Russia. What if Assad uses gas again against his own people?
It should also be remembered that President Obama and the hapless John Kerry made a deal in 2013 along with the Russians that supposedly removed these very chemical weapons from Assad's arsenal. We can now put to that alongside the Iran nuclear deal as another case of the bad guys hoodwinking the weak Obama administration. It almost seems unfair to pile on here, but back in January, there was Susan Rice touting the Syrian deal on National Public Radio as an example of the foreign policy successes of the Obama administration.
At any rate, what's done is done. Our military is engaged, and we must pray that they don't wind up fighting against Russians. That guy, Joe Six-pack in my heart says I don't much care if we kill a few thousand Iranian Revolutionary Guards. All-in-all, This is a complicated and dangerous moment, and we must pray for wisdom from our leaders. Right now I am supporting our commander-in-chief.