On the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria: What’s Left

President Trump has rebuked Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin following last weekend’s chemical attacks on Syrian civilians in the rebel-held town of Douma. Such attacks on civilians cannot be tolerated by the international community, and President Trump’s swift condemnation of the attacks should be commended. It is refreshing to see the president call out Putin and Russian policies after seeming far too cordial toward Russia for most of his presidency thus far. This talk and scolding is all well and good, but the real question is what the actual response will be and what it should look like. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has said, determining the U.S. response to the attack is one of the most important decisions that President Trump has faced thus far during his time in the Oval Office. 

“If it becomes a tweet without meaning then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” Graham remarked. 

Before I begin my own analysis, let me clarify that some sort of action must be taken. We cannot idly stand by while biological weapons are used in gruesome attacks against civilians. By doing nothing, we only risk allowing such attacks to become commonplace among the strategies of oppressive regimes all over the world. Enough is enough, and Syria needs to get that message. The U.S., as part of the international community, must show that these actions will not be tolerated. 

The key to this is that the U.S. must act along with the international community. Historically, unilateral action taken by the U.S. in such situations has not been successful. For example, almost exactly a year ago on April 7, 2017 President Trump initiated an assault of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian military installations following a chemical attack that occurred three days earlier. This military action was certainly justified. However, it had little effect overall. This was primarily because the international community had mixed responses to it. Some countries such as the United Kingdom supported the attack, while others such as Switzerland called for diplomatic efforts instead. 

Whether diplomatic or military action is better suited in dealing with Syria is up for debate. What is certain is that the international community must act in unison in its response. Syria clearly does not get the right message when the U.S. acts alone and receives mixed support from other countries. It is not a strong enough move, and it only makes the U.S. look like an Iraq War-era world police. All the countries of the free world must agree that such attacks are abhorrent, and they must come to a consensus collectively on what the most appropriate response would be. The free world, not just the U.S., must send a united message to Syria if we really want to ensure that we do not see more attacks on civilians such as the one that took place this past weekend. This is a humanitarian crisis that should be taken seriously. President Trump, alongside America’s allies, should take action.

Contact Jace DeMar at [email protected].