It is a day I have long waited for: the United States has finally acted to stop the Assad regime’s cruelty. Yesterday, President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian regime airbase believed to be the staging point for a brutal chemical attack days before. President Trump, in his speech on the event, was visibly moved and emotional when describing the chemical attack. It was nice to see him care about something and someone. This is the most proud I have been of Donald Trump in my entire life. There is still MUCH I dislike about him, but here in this matter at least, he has my support. Where President Obama turned away, President Trump has acted.
The Assad regime has a long history of appalling brutality and tyranny, predating the current conflict. The regime had terror as its foundation; sheer, unadulterated terror to keep the populace in line. For decades the Assad regime has employed militias, the Shabiha (Arabic for ghosts), to enforce its rule and to enter the homes of dissidents to slit the throats of their families. The regime has built elaborate torture centers rivaled only by the dungeons of North Korea and Nazi Germany. Syria is ruled more as an occupied country than a functioning society. The Syrian “government” receives its mandate not from the consent of the governed, for who would consent to such tyranny, but from might makes right. The methods of the Syrian regime reveal the depths of human cruelty when we are given the opportunity.
But as terrible as the regime was before the civil war, it has truly reached new heights of horror during the civil war. The regime has made targets out of schools, hospitals, funerals, weddings, etc. They have enforced collective punishment on conquered territories and have used starvation as an acceptable means to further their ends. It should not have been necessary for the regime to have used chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, before we acted but such is the world we live in. At least now we have acted. It is time for the world to stand together and say: “Enough!” For too long we have turned a blind eye to the sorrow of Syria. For too long the mournful wails of widows and orphans have fallen on deaf ears. For too long we have sat in splendor as Syrians fed themselves with dust and grass.
I sincerely hope that the Trump administration is serious when it states that there is “no role for [Assad] to govern the Syrian people” (WSJ). While I hope that this strikes signals the beginning of a larger campaign, I am also realistic. With Russian and Iranian forces on the ground, it is dangerous for the US to wage a campaign against the regime. I do expect a serious increase in US and allied material support for the opposition however. The Russians and Iranians, with weak sanction-hit economies, do not have the financial capability to wage a war of attrition with the US and the Gulf Kingdoms. The regime does not have the manpower to wage a war of attrition with the opposition. However, the opposition does not have the unity and discipline to take control of the country. Much work needs to be done to prepare for the departure of Assad, but their is no question that he must go. That, at least, we owe to the people of Syria.