The USS Ross was one of two Navy destroyers that launched the attack on the Syrian air base. (Justin Stumberg/U.S. Navy/ Reuters)
President Trump recently made the short-sighted decision to launch 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base controlled by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Officially, the strike is a reprisal for a chemical weapons attack by Assad that killed 80 Syrian civilians.
Attacking the Assad regime is a reversal of Trump’s campaign promises opposing intervention in Syria and his more recent noncommittal response to the Assad’s use of chemical weapons on civilians.
The justification of using force to protect Syrian civilians seems especially hollow from Trump in light of his executive order barring immigration of Syrian refugees and citizens from other Muslim-majority countries.
The decision to launch the missiles does not achieve the desired result of changing Assad’s policies or seriously challenging his grasp on Syria. Furthermore, congress gave support for the strike only after it had occurred. Congressional approval is required for any military action that does not deal directly with a threat to the U.S. or one of its allies. Trump is again defying established procedure for presidential authority in order to play the “man of action” for his supporters.
Unfortunately, most members of congress and the senate have focused on the failure to consult congress before the strike and gave at least reluctant support for action against Assad.
Previously, the U.S. government has backed rebel forces against the Russian-backed Assad regime while also participating in air strikes against ISIS. Iran and other gulf state nations also have a stake in backing various rebel factions, sometimes coinciding with U.S. support, other times not.
Escalating military action towards an Ira-style invasion or occupation is not in the best interests of either the U.S. nor the Syrian people. At present, there is no defined victory condition regarding changes in the Assad regime or construction of a new government. It would be foolish to engage in any military action that could provoke a proxy war with Russia or create a power vacuum for terrorist forces.
In summary, President Trump has contradicted his previous position on Syrian intervention, acted outside the bounds of the constitution, and escalated a complex civil war to provide political theatre.
Any money appropriated for bombing or invading Syria takes away from essential programs at home such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal pushes for 54 billion dollars in increased military spending at the cost of major cuts to civilian agencies that provide life-saving services and grants to science, health and environmental preservation.
What does it say about our esteem for human life when we are willing to spend 50 million dollars to destroy an air base halfway around the world, but continue to deny the people of Flint, Michigan access to clean water?
I implore all concerned students to reach out to their senators and congressional representatives and urge them to oppose further military intervention in Syria.