Opinion: In Response to the Death of Innocents

Wesley Koswara | Staff Writer

On Tuesday April 4, Bashar Al Assad’s regime was again charged with violation of international law. A chemical attack against a rebel-controlled area of Syria reportedly killed somewhere around 80 people, several of whom were children. United States intelligence believes the attack originated from the Al Shayrat airfield, the Syrian military base. Two days after the attack, two U.S. warships in the eastern Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield.

The repercussions of this retributive attack are still being discussed today. Nobody really knows how far things will escalate as the United States and Russia seek to protect their interests in the region.

President Trump seems to seek to show the world that his administration isn’t afraid to act swiftly and decisively in the face of chemical attacks on civilians. Russia, backing Assad’s government, will need to prove that it is both willing and able to act on behalf of its smaller allies. The Syrian government itself characteristically blames the rebels for the deaths.

The conflict in Syria is years old by now.

While I believe the intentions of the retaliatory strike were good, the implications they have for international politics are mixed at best. Trump proves he is willing to use force very quickly without the involvement or consultation of other governmental bodies. America can be seen as a defender of international law and of the victims of its violations.

It is difficult to defend the use of chemical weapons in any context, by any party. Additionally, Trump did not have to wait on the laborious bureaucracy of the United Nations or the US government, which could have taken weeks to come to a decision about a response.

While Assad’s government may have broken international law, a missile strike on a sovereign power without consultation of the international community cannot be overlooked.

Trump, and America by extension, completely circumvented any involvement of the United Nations and potentially undermined their authority. Trump himself acted without Congressional involvement in a show of force seriously affecting the U.S.’ relationship with the Middle East.

On top of all this, discussion again has bloomed over what to do about Assad himself. Toppling his regime seems unlikely while he has the support of Putin in Russia, and the Syrian rebel groups are dangerously factionalized and possibly radicalized. The last thing the United States wants to do is replace Assad with someone worse.

A stance on this matter is difficult to take without the perfect vision of hindsight. In an ideal world, neither nations nor individuals should be allowed to get away with using chemical weapons on civilians.

That being said, an individual calling missile strikes on sovereign powers with little oversight sets a dangerous precedent, even with the best of intentions. The question of the United States’ perceived role as the world’s policeman is again brought up. Even if the cause is just, who are we to interfere in the internal affairs of another country? How far can we justify national interest to back our actions?

Whatever the question, and whatever the proposed solutions, the real victims continue to be noncombatants of the civil war in Syria, and an end to their suffering continues to prove elusive as the conflict continues.

 

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