Donald Trump recently had a significant milestone in his Presidency: his first military strike. In response to the news that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had attacked his own people with chemical weapons, President Trump authorized a missile strike on the Syrian airfield from whence the chemical attack originated.
Reactions to this act have been mixed, but whether or not you think it was the right thing to do, it raises an important question: What are the implications of this missile strike for our country? Will it send us into another war in the Middle East? There are a number of issues to consider.
A Dangerous Precedent
On the surface, the missile strike seems like the right decision. President Assad’s attack on his people was unconscionable, and we stepped in to protect them and let the Syrian government know that this wouldn’t stand. Only that’s not our responsibility.
Dealing with threats to international peace is the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council. They are the ones who decide, as a group, whether a particular action warrants a response, and if so, what that response should be.
For an individual nation to step in and make that decision independently, particularly against another member of the United Nations, undermines the U.N.’s authority and sets a dangerous precedent. Will other countries begin to intervene in international affairs as well, taking action and launching military strikes as they see fit?
In fact, as many have pointed out, Trump had previously spoken out against this type of unilateral action as a type of global peacekeeping. In the past, they’ve led to massive amounts of death and destruction, both of civilians and of U.S. troops. Does this missile strike mean a change in Trump’s views on how to handle military conflict, and if so, what does it mean for the future of our nation?
Finding Out What Happened
There’s another important factor to consider in this ordeal as well. Though President Assad is the one accused of launching the chemical attack, that hasn’t yet been confirmed. There is evidence to suggest that he was behind it, but there’s evidence to the contrary as well—such as the fact that Assad allegedly got rid of all of his chemical weapons years ago, and flatly denies any involvement in the attack.
While that hardly stands as proof of innocence, Trump’s immediate response to the attack was to accuse Assad, before any kind of investigation, or even discussing the possibilities and evidence within our own government. Therefore, if it turns out that he wasn’t the one behind it, the actual perpetrators would now have the perfect cover to attack again, knowing that Assad and the Syrian government would be blamed. Further U.S. intervention would weaken Assad’s regime, allowing the real culprits to swoop in and overthrow it.
An Act of Aggression
How likely is it that Assad is, in fact, being framed? It’s difficult to say for certain, especially before an investigation has been conducted. However, the important thing is that Russia, one of Syria’s major allies, has already suggested that this may be the case—which would delegitimize The U.S.’s strike against Assad.
Furthermore, to launch an attack on a country accused of wrongdoing before that wrongdoing has been conclusively proven can be seen as an act of aggression, and both President Assad and President Putin have used those very words to condemn the U.S. missile strike.
Russia has furthermore called for a full investigation into the chemical attack. If we oppose this investigation, due to what it implies about our own response, it will only lend more credibility to the assertion that Assad wasn’t the one behind the attack, and that our missile strike against him was unwarranted.
This puts us into a rather difficult position which could end up provoking war with Syria and their allies. And our own allies in that area could end up pushing us further in that direction. Will it actually go that far? Only time will tell—but the stage is set, and things certainly seem to be progressing in that direction. All eyes are currently on Trump and Assad. We’ll see how each behaves going forward into this precarious situation.