Strikes on Syria

United States missiles fire on Syria in what is claimed as a retaliation to the apparent use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.

On April 13, 2018, the United States, United Kingdom and France launched airstrikes on locations held by the Bashar al-Assad Syrian regime in retaliation to a supposed usage of prohibited chemical agent, killing over 40 civilians in the city of Douma. All three nations claim to have evidence of chemical warfare to support the airstrikes.

British Prime Minister Theresa May made claims of photos featuring barrel bombs being dropped on the city, similar to those used in previous chemical attacks. Many bodies were found in tightly enclosed places, showing few signs of chemical weapons save for flush faces, foaming mouths, and what appeared to have been a quick death. From the physical state of many of the survivors taken to hospitals – foaming mouths and corneal burns – as well as emissions chlorine-like odor, suggesting chlorine was the primary chemical used in the attack. France as well reported usage of the chlorine chemical, though gave little else to suggest other chemicals.

Each of the three nations involved with the airstrikes have used the chemical warfare to strong defense of their actions. As a result of the U.S.’s involvement in the bombings, various reactions have sprung up across the nation, even among individuals of Washington and the leading political parties.

According to the Constitution, the president must first be granted permission to perform acts of war on another nation, except in acts of self-defense, per Article II as an executive power. Not only was the use of chemicals against civilians by the Assad Regime not an act of war, but nowhere has the Trump administration used the term “self-defense”, but rather “in our national interest”. Trump himself boasted “mission accomplished” in one of several tweets following the airstrikes, as if the goal were not to defend, but to destroy. Furthermore, Trump was advised by numerous members of Congress to obtain permission before launching missiles, which he did not.

The primary goal of the strikes was to destroy chemical weapons factories of the Assad Regime. According to the Pentagon, the attacks were successful in taking out the “heart” of the program, but that the regime has likely retained some means of attacking civilians. There was another goal in mind when launching the missiles, however, and that was to punish Assad’s regime for its actions. Lt. General Kenneth F. McKenzie believes that “there’s still a residual element of the Syrian program that’s out there”, but that the regime will “think long and hard” before using chemical weapons again.

Whether or not the regime will take the message and cease their use of chemical warfare is debatable. The 2017 airstrike on a Syrian military base has seemingly failed to send a message, as evidenced by the recent attack on civilians. This has many concerned that the air strikes were a useless act to tame an animal that cannot be tamed. Some, such as South Carolina republican Senator Lindsey Graham, fear the attacks will have only made America weaker in the eyes of Assad, and that he may have “calculated a limited American strike is just the cost of doing business”. This may well be the case, as evidenced, again, by the recent attacks and what seems to be the determined and carefree mind of Assad.

Others feel as though the United States is playing a risky game in involving itself within the Syrian Civil War. One of the major fears is that the strikes could spark World War III, given Russia and Iran’s connections with Syria and already rough relationships with the U.S. On the surface this may seem somewhat plausible, but further analysis may show different. President Trump and Prime Minister May are both ready to strike should the regime continue to use chemical warfare against the citizens of Syria, but continued strikes may not necessarily instigate President Vladimir Putin of Russia to declare war. A number of Russian sources have claimed Putin does not wish to start another World War, and wishes to ease tensions between Russia and the States. A more reliable point, however, is that the nations involved in the strikes are doing all they can to avoid Russian land, soldiers, etc., in Syria, despite Putin and Russia’s close relations with Assad and his nation. Still, the future remains in mystery, and nothing is truly standing in the way of a declaration of war.

The airstrikes can be viewed in numerous ways, and there are just as well as many possible outcomes. Matters such as these always carry with them a diverse range of responses. Where the strikes will take the nations involved is not set in stone, but it is a likely consensus between those with an opinion to hope for an end to the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons and the avoidance of another war.