Credit where credit is due: Donald Trump enforces the red line in Syria

As was expected, the first few months of the Trump administration have resembled a car crash. It is impossible to avert one’s eyes from the utter disaster that has unfolded thus far in the White House and it is hard to feel sanguine about the at times nefarious character of some of the administration’s policies and actions. While it was enjoyable witnessing the humiliating defeat that Mr Trump suffered at the hands of a series of `freedom-loving` mavericks in the Senate, the repeated scandals over Russian influence is of an obviously malign character, and Mr Trump’s sycophancy towards Russian Tsar-cum-mafia lord Vladimir Putin is deeply disconcerting to anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of global politics, or American interests for that matter.

Credit, however, where credit is due. He can count the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as a major success and the adults in the Trump administration seem to be exerting increasing influence over both strategy and tactics. The military action undertaken against the Syrian regime illustrates this point. The Obama administration’s policies towards Syria—and the Middle East as a whole—was defined by impotence, incompetence, and what at times resembled indifference as Mr Obama drew his infamous ‘red line’ in rapidly disappearing quicksand. Finally, decisive action has been taken, and for anybody who questions the sagacity of the action, a brief google search of the effects of sarin gas (the deadly nerve agent used by the Assad regime in Idlib) must surely convince. Young children found themselves convulsing uncontrollably, their nervous systems going into overdrive until they choke to death on their own vomit. Sarin gas is a weapon of mass destruction and for it to be used even once with impunity sets a precedent that cannot be undone. Even the Russians recognised this in 2013 as they acted to `disarm` the Syrian regime of its chemical weapon programme after a series of similar attacks. It has no value militarily; its sole purpose is the mass murder of civilians. Bear in mind as well, that shortly after the attack further Syrian airstrikes were launched against the hospital in which the survivors were being treated.

It has no value militarily; its sole purpose is the mass murder of civilians

Unfortunately Mr Trump’s air strikes conducted on the air base from where the Idlib attacks were conducted are unlikely to be part of a wider, coherent strategy. They may simply represent a hot-headed reaction from a mercurial president, little more than aggressive posturing aimed at either impressing or intimidating his Chinese guest, President Xi Jingping. They may be a classic case of an embattled leader looking abroad to ease his domestic woes. Yet, this cynical narrative notwithstanding, these airstrikes represent a limited and focused response to a repulsive war crime. Unfortunately, they are not proportionate: a proportionate response would entail the crippling and ultimately deposal of this sick, twisted regime.

Back in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn’s asinine and automatic condemnation of the US military action while he tip-toed around commenting on the true atrocity betrays his morally bankrupt inner convictions in which the much maligned and mocked Manichaeanism of the Blairites is reversed so that West equals bad and Assad/Putin equals good. We should be ashamed to have such a contemptible figure leading one of the great parties of government, transforming it into a neo-fascist cult of personality. One can take only momentary schadenfreude in the pitiful poll ratings that he and his party currently enjoys (or not, as it were). The response of the government has been of greater encouragement: Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s confirmation of Britain’s “full support” is the minimum that should be expected.

these airstrikes represent a limited and focused response to a repulsive war crime

The Syrian conflict represents the obvious fallacy of the non-interventionists. The claim that Western intervention “will only make matters worse” is revealing either of ignorance, stupidity, callousness or sarcasm. The idea that Assad is the only thing standing between Syria and state collapse (the predictable argument of the non-interventionist) is a non sequitur – there is no state left to collapse. Perhaps it may now be too late, with Russian forces too inextricably tied up with Syrian forces to risk any major military action. Ironically it seems to be only the chief resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who thinks otherwise.


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