The Airstrikes in Syria: The Best Option in a Bad Situation
This morning, to the extent the joint American-British-French strikes in Syria are still in the news, they’re the focus of complaints about being insufficient or ill-considered. The Washington Post rushes to inform us of “the many things Trump didn’t accomplish in the latest Syria strike.” Thank goodness there are experts to tell us that launching 105 missiles did not “take ownership of the Syrian endgame.”
It’s abundantly clear that neither the American people, nor this president, nor many figures in his administration, nor most members of Congress, nor our NATO allies, nor our regional allies want to “take ownership of the Syrian endgame.” We would rather not deal with it at all, and for most of the Obama administration, that was more or less our policy, even when presidential “red lines” were crossed. A half-million deaths later . . .
Color me among the few who actually think this strike was about right. It seemed appropriate that America and its allies contemplated striking Syria during Holocaust Remembrance Day, since once again the Western powers confronted the question of how to deal with a hideously brutal regime that uses poison gas, attacks civilians, and builds giant crematoriums, led by a dictator with a poorly-groomed mustache. No, sending 105 missiles isn’t going to alter the course of the Syrian Civil War. It’s just going to demonstrate to Assad and his allies that every time they reach for the chemical weapons, we’ll blow some of their stuff up*. Stick to conventional weapons — war is awful enough without poison gas becoming a standard part of the arsenal.
(*The strike also demonstrated that those highly touted Russian air-defense systems aren’t all that effective against the United States or its key allies. Back in 2012, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told Congress that “a long-term, sustained air campaign would pose a challenge because Syria’s air defenses are five times more sophisticated than Libya’s” and that “suppressing the Syrian air defenses would take an extended period of time and a significant number of aircraft, an effort that would have to be led by the United States.” Perhaps for a sustained air campaign, but last Friday night four British Tornadoes, five French Rafales, four French Mirages, two U.S. E-3F AWACS Sentries, six U.S. C-135 tankers, and two U.S. B-1 bombers all took the skies, all 36 missiles launched from aircraft hit their targets, and all aircraft returned safely.)
Andrew Rawnsley, writing in The Guardian:
To let yet another use of chemical weapons happen without any form of response would have given a complete sense of impunity to the Assad regime and its sponsors in the Kremlin. Every dictatorship on the planet has been getting the message that there is no penalty for the acquisition and use of weapons prohibited since the First World War and that has chilling implications for future conflicts.
Elsewhere in the U.K., Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn retches a mealy-mouthed collection of tired clichés about diplomacy that apparently hasn’t been updated in years:
We have to remove the scourge of chemical weapons but also use our influence to end the still greater scourge of the Syrian war. A diplomatic solution that will allow for the country to be rebuilt, for refugees to be able to return home and for an inclusive political settlement that allows the Syrian people to decide their own future could not be more urgent.
Oh, hey, a diplomatic solution! Gee, why didn’t we think of that? Corbyn just ignores that the Arab League launched peace talks in 2011, the United Nations in 2012, additional talks in Geneva that year, and again in 2014, and in Vienna in 2015, and in Riyadh in 2015, and back to Geneva again in 2016, and a very short-lived ceasefire that year, and then back to Geneva yet again in 2017, and then talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, throughout last year. Wishing for a diplomatic solution is like wishing for a unicorn.
Corbyn writes, “There can be no question of turning a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Their deployment constitutes a crime, and those responsible must be held to account.” Well, nobody’s heading over to Syria to arrest Assad or to knock on bunker doors with search warrants. You want to hold somebody accountable, you send Tomahawks and Storm Shadow missiles.
On March 10, 2016, Derek Chollet, former assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs, said, “Imagine if Syria’s chemical weapons were still there today.”
Way, way back in the National Review archives in 2004, before the Kerry Spot days, some wire-service reporter wrote, “even Assad has to wonder whether he wants to be the last Middle Eastern dictator bragging about having chemical and biological weapons.”
From - National Review - by Jim Geraghty