4/6/17: President Trump has decided to fire 59 tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base that was supposedly linked to a recent chemical attack that mainline news claims to have been committed by the Assad regime. If you find yourself confused about what’s going on in Syria you’re not alone. If my newsfeed is like your’s, conflicting information is popping up at every turn and it can be hard to discern what’s really going on. Let’s try to clear somethings up and analyse who is saying what while looking at a very recent history on US opinions of getting involved in Syria.
The Syrian Civil War originally just part of the greater Arab Spring taking place in the middle east. The conflict evolved into a greater war as rebel forces tried to kick out the Assad Regime who was unwilling to give up power. As the war has been extended a significant amount of actors have created a quagmire which has contorted the original issues that the civil war was about. Look at these graphics to get a sense of how confusing it’s got.
In 2012 President Obama declared a Red Line in a speech suggesting that if Assad were to use chemical weapons on citizens of Syria that there would be a strong US response (military intervention). Obama withdrew on this pledge even as chemical weapons were used again. Shortly after, an agreement was made with Russia to remove all of Syria’s chemical weapons (there is conflicting information on whether this was Assad or not).
During the 2016 US presidential election it seemed that Trump was the champion of conservatives who wanted to avoid more involvement in the Middle East region outside of destroying ISIS. A Trump supporter on my campus wrote, “Hands off Syria” next to a vote for Hillary chalked on the side walk. This belief reinforced by the opinions of Syrians on the ground. I remember listening to NPR interviews where Syrians that were disappointed with the lack of intervention on Obama’s part were even more nervous if Trump were to get elected. On the other hand supports of Assad were happy because they thought Trump would finally stop the US support of rebel forces.
As of yesterday, the Trump administration switched it’s stance on the Assad Regime and has decided to attack a Syrian airbase.
Who’s For and Against?
I’d say there are about 3 groups of people that support the airstrikes: Pro-Rebel groups, Neoliberal/neoconservatives, and a majority of republicans.
Obviously if you are a rebel group or supporter of the rebels in Syria you support the strikes that Trump has made. This people believe that Assad is responsible for the chemical attacks that we’ve seen in the news.
Neo-liberals/conservatives mainline criticism of Obama was his failure to act against the Assad regime. Obama’s failure to exert his red line threat against Assad was a black eye to American foreign policy. These people don’t particularly have an issue with executive overreach. They think US intervention would help the situation. This group includes many leaders around the world including the current Democratic leadership in the House and Senate who haven’t condoned the attacks. Even Hillary Clinton said we should attack Syrian airfields hours before the attack. An interesting thing to observe will be if people that are against Trump will support this action or not support it because it was Trump. So far, as I stated, they support the idea even though it was executed by Trump.
Republicans, even though many were against Obama’s call to action against Syria, will likely heavily support Trump. It will help the party to coalesce around an issue after having a few rough months. This support is mainly political and shifts between who is ever making the decision.
The 4 groups against the airstrikes are: Assad supporters, progressives (and every group left of them), executive overseers, and flimsy Democrats.
Assad supporters think that the US is to involved in the conflict and consider any US action an act of Western Imperialism. These are the people who say that rebels are responsible for the chemical weapons attacks. They also believe the White Helmet group is fake (they have a documentary on Netflix). Anything that says otherwise is normally considered western propaganda.
Progressives are generally against actions the US takes in the middle east and see them as short sighted. They generally align with what I call the executive overseers who are libertarians, a small group of Republicans, and some progressives. These people believe that the US president doesn’t have the authority to authorize such actions unless Congress declares a state of war. Flimsy Democrats try to jump into this group except they are more like Republicans that support Trump. They claim that this is executive overreach and that Trump should have got approval from Congress. However, those same people supported Obama’s overreach in Drone strikes and wanted him to take action on Syria. They find this as an opportunist moment to go against Trump.
Initially I find Trump’s actions to be very short sighted regardless of his intention. I was against the lack of media attention on Obama’s use of drone strikes because I considered it executive overreach and I believe that Trump has done the same thing here. The policies of Obama have left this door open to Trump and I find it cringe worthy if any Democrat who didn’t speak out against Obama’s actions wants to now just because we have a Republican president.
I question the intentions of Trump. If he really cared about the Syrian people he would increase the amount of refugees that America took in because we have a fine vetting process and these people aren’t dangerous. We care enough to bomb their country but not to help with the refugee problem?
I don’t have an opinion on the rebels or Assad. The information we have is very messy and both sides are dishing out propaganda on social media like there is no tomorrow. Our main goal should be to help the refugees and do everything we can diplomatically to achieve peace.