OPINION: Thoughts on the Past, Present, and Future...

OPINION: Thoughts on the Past, Present, and Future of Syria

On Thursday, the Trump administration took action against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad by dropping approximately 60 missiles onto the air force base that released chemical weapons on citizens injuring and/or killing over 80 people earlier in the week.


There are those, like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who suggest that this attack by Trump was not justified because America wasn’t attacked and have no business getting involved.

Additionally, the alt-right seems to have taken issue with the bombing of a Russian ally, we know how much the alt-right loves Putin and his terrorist regime. However, there is another, one that is –in my opinion more convincing—reason not to strike Assad. History repeats itself and it is filled with instances where the US intervenes in these situations, topples a dictator, and end up with what has become known as a “vacuum.” The vacuum is a war-torn location, that is government-less, and then typically taken over by terrorist forces.

Assad is a terrible man who commits atrocities. Ultimately, however, he is one guy, whose aspirations seem to be limited to his region. If we continue to attack Assad until he falls, the government of Syria is likely to be taken over by ISIS or the rebel forces (a group of people whose motives we are not sure about at all.) If a group like ISIS takes over a country like Syria, we may have taken down the brutal Assad, but I am not sure how beneficial that would be for the state of the international community. ISIS, as opposed to Assad, is a group of crazy people who have global aspirations. Additionally, ISIS is not less brutal than Assad and would likely use chemical weapons as well if they had the resources. It is a lose – lose.

It would seem none humanitarian to not intervene after the chemical attack earlier this week but the alternative seems just as bad if not worse. That is unacceptable. The only way (that I know of) to not create a vacuum is by the US colonizing the land after destroying Assad, a move that is not feasible, and that would be detested by the rest of the international community. There are many things not clear about this situation, but one thing is: we can’t do what we did to Gaddafi in Libya, and we can’t let a terrorist group rise like the Muslim brotherhood did in Egypt, just to name two out of many examples over the last few presidency’s. One thing should be made clear, however, it is possible to detest Assad and his actions and still be fearful about attacks on him.

Current Events

Is it true that Obama was spineless when it came to foreign relations? Perhaps. Is it true that Trump seems to be more physical? Yes. Does that mean Assad is trembling in his boots right now? No. We have to remember the following things about Assad and the situation: He knows full well that his army has been terribly depleted by the civil war that has been going on in Syria for around 6 years. He also knows that even if his army was at full strength, it probably wouldn’t match that of the United States. Therefore, he knows that he doesn’t want to get in a war with us one on one and accounts for that when making a move that could cause an international stir. He, and his intelligence officers, are planning for international retaliation before they do something like they did this week and they make sure that they can handle whatever the punishment is going to be.

Similarly, The New York Times’ initial reports outlining a Trump retaliation was publicized prior to 6 p.m., a few hours before it actually happened. And the Trump team wasn’t particularly surprising in where they attacked Syria, namely, the center location of the terror attack. In other words, Syria knew this was coming. And if they knew it was coming, and where it was going, then they moved as much military personnel and equipment away from there as they could without provoking the US to change targets. In other words, for those who think that this was a devastating blow to Syria’s air force and that it will significantly hinder their ability to properly operate, I just don’t think that’s true.

Down the Road

One can only hope, as is likely, that Syria takes this as warning sign and that they cease to commit heinous crimes like this past one. But for the sake of provocative thought, let’s take this scenario to the extreme. Syria and Russia are friends. Russia thought they were getting a friend in Donald Trump but this act of international military force against the Russian ally might prove the opposite. If Russia were to get involved – either to spite Trump or to help their ally – it would put the international community in really delicate position. The US would have to call on allies of their own so that they aren’t backed against the wall and the EU and UK would seem to be a likely choice. Unable to stay out of anything having to do with death and conflict, Iran would then likely come out in support of Syria, forcing Israel to come out in support of the US. Before you know it, you have a world war on your hands. This is an extremely unlikely reaction to one routine reciprocal airstrike, but it is something to think about when getting involved in any type of international warfare or conflict.

We mustn’t celebrate military action mindlessly, but rather support it if we really think it is best. But even if that is the case, we must understand that it always has potential to be delicate and is not something to be taken in a light hearted manner.

Elliot, a member of the class of 2019 at Yeshiva University, is a writer whose work spans the spectrum from politics to screenwriting. He started writing political analysis for his school newspaper and has subsequently seeked other outlets to make his arguments heard. Elliot enjoys mixed martial arts and reading anything he can get his hands on.