Syria Uses Chemical Weapons and Gets A Reaction

The civil war in Syria has been going on for six years.  The fighting between Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad and rebel forces has been brutal, with horrific images coming out of places such as Aleppo and towns that no one has ever heard of where Assad has used chemical weapons on his own population.

President Obama said using chemical weapons would be a ‘red line’ that Assad should not cross.  In a Sept. 2013 speech said  “What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?”

Unfortunately, those were just words.  When chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime had been confirmed, against the advice of his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, President Obama took no action.Only days ago, Syria again used chemical weapons in an attack on rebel held areas though supposedly Russia had talked Assad into giving them up.  In today’s world of social media, we saw pictures and video of the aftermath almost immediately.

Last night, the US reacted and fired over 50 cruise missiles at the airbase reportedly used to launch the attacks.  Damage reports are still being gathered but the base has likely been rendered inoperable.

In the overall course of the civil war, this airstrike will likely have minimal effect in the long run.  However, sending a message and sending one almost immediately after the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) was an important first step.

Oddly enough, in an interview aired earlier this week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said that President Obama’s policy of disengagement in the Middle East had left a vacuum across the region that Russia had rushed to fill.  In its Jan. 28, 2017 issue the Economist magazine talked about the “new irrelevance” of the US in the region.  Never a very stable part of the world, the US is now playing catch up in trying to be an influential player.

Military action against Syria is full of potential problems.  The rebel groups fighting the Syrian dictator include al-Qaeda and ISIS and there are few good options on which devil to support.  The risk of accidently leading to a confrontation with Russia, who has military forces there helping the Assad regime, exists and would be an obvious problem.  There is no easy answer, and any answer has a lot of downsides.  However, Thinking Man surely isn’t alone in believing that the world’s only superpower cannot stand by while WMDs are used in horrific acts of brutality.   In 2013, when the US took no action after Assad’s chemical weapon attacks encouraged him to do it again and he resorted to that tactic again at that time.  Failure to act now would make him think there were again no repercussions.  Hopefully now he will at least have second thoughts.

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