What is going on in Syria?

Joseph Langan

In response to the dreadful chemical attack in Douma, Trump used military force. The conflict in Syria began as a civil war in 2011, but it has been muddled by the interests of other nations — including the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. The real victims are undoubtedly the people of Syria, who have been ensnared in a quagmire of senseless violence.

The attack on Syria over the weekend, like last year’s attack, will likely be a symbolic move, realigning the news cycle to focus on his “strong” response. In tasteless, opportunistic fashion, Trump is using the Syrian people as props to distract Americans from domestic controversies, such as James Comey’s new book and the ongoing Stormy Daniels saga. 

Trump’s military response not only does little to help the people suffering in Syria, but also escalates global tensions, putting the U.S. dangerously close to inciting war with Iran and Russia. Trump’s missile strikes could easily hit Iranian or Russian personnel, inching us toward a global conflict we haven’t seen in the 21st century. 

Considering our record in the region, is it really a sensible choice to be the global cop, intervening on behalf of the Syrian people? The attack over the weekend happened before the United Nations was able to independently investigate the alleged chemical attack. If President al-Assad is found guilty, he should be held accountable by the international community. The U.S. bombing Damascus only brings more bloodshed on a wartorn people held hostage by the interests of neighboring nations. 

On the ground, the main opposition to the Syrian government are the so-called “moderate rebels,” a majority of which are not Syrian citizens, and many have direct ties to ISIS. If the Assad regime falls, Syria will likely take the path Libya and Iraq took after the U.S. destroyed those countries. In the failed state of Libya, slaves are openly sold. As disastrous a leader as Assad unquestionably is, is an ISIS-governed wasteland any better? 

Perhaps most disturbing is the hollow moral posturing feigned by the U.S. and its allies. Don’t tell me the U.S. is interested in intervening for humanitarian reasons while simultaneously facilitating a genocide in Yemen. Don’t tell me the U.S. is intervening in Syria to spread democracy while turning a blind eye to the murdering of dozens of unarmed protesters and journalists in Palestine. 

If the U.S. was really so appalled by the use of banned weapons, why are we the largest exporter of cluster bombs? Why did we douse Vietnam and Korea in Agent Orange and napalm? Can our nation’s moral character really be upheld when we remain the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon on civilians? 

If we were really interested in providing humanitarian support, we should open our borders to refugees. We couldn’t save them all, of course, but we could certainly help hundreds of thousands of Syrians. The fact that we don’t welcome refugees shows how shallow our moral stance really is.

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].