For the second time in just over a year, President Donald J. Trump has launched an illegal and unnecessary airstrike against the government of Syria for a crime it may very well not have committed.
The joint US-French-British strike on three alleged chemical weapons facilities in the vicinity of Damascus and Homs were carried out, according to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in order to defend “vital American interests.”
The air strikes, carried out in the absence of congressional authorization or a UN Security Council mandate, come almost a week after a chemical-weapons attack in the city of Douma, which killed 70. Some estimate that up to 500 people—mainly women and children—were hospitalized by the gas attack, which is said to have been carried out by the government of Bashar al-Assad.
To no one’s surprise, Trump’s decision to risk World War III was met with approval by US media and political elites who have been calling for blood ever since the reports of the chemical attack emerged last week.
The Washington Post editorial board was of the opinion that “Chemical attacks should be answered with cruise missiles.” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer deemed the “pinpointed, limited action” an “appropriate response.” The president of the New America Foundation, Anne Marie Slaughter, tweeted that she believes that the United States, the United Kingdom, and France did “the right thing” by striking Syria. The Brookings Institution’s Martin Indyk gave President Trump “three cheers” for “enforcing the line against Syrian chemical weapons use.”
Yet even The New York Times was moved to express concern that “the new strikes posed the risk of drawing the United States more deeply into a conflict in which Russia and Iran have more invested than ever in keeping Mr. Assad in power.”
The airstrikes are but the latest in a long line of US interventions in the Syrian civil war. The United States has been intervening directly in Syrian domestic affairs since 2011, when then-Ambassador Robert Ford toured the country in support of the anti-government protests; the United States has been funneling arms to the radical jihadi opposition since at least 2012; last year the Trump administration lobbed a series of cruise missiles against Syria; the US military currently has upwards of 2,000 troops stationed on the ground, in violation of international law.