Trump Attacks a Syrian Military Base: How We Got Here and What it Means

By: John Kallas

April 9, 2017

In 2013, over 1,000 Syrian civilians were attacked with sarin gas. There was public outcry for something to be done from almost everyone who had heard the news. The general consensus is that these attacks were carried out by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, though he has never admitted to it. After this information broke, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that Assad had “crossed a red line” and that action must be taken to prevent this from ever happening again, but neither Obama nor any other member of the U.S. government took any action to prevent the further use of chemical weapons.

Around this time, Assad admitted that the Syrian government was, indeed, in possession of chemical weapons. Naturally, the United Nations informed the Syrian President that they would have to confiscate the deadly gasses, as the possession or use of such concoctions is against the Geneva Convention. Eventually, Assad agreed to this, but only under the agreement that it was Russia who was to oversee the process. Russia, of course, is the Syrian government’s strongest ally in the current civil war.

For some time, everyone believed that was the end of it, that neither Bashar Al Assad nor the Syrian government had possession of any such weapons of mass destruction. But then, on April 4th, 2017, news broke that there had been another chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians in Damascus, the country’s capital. This caused a major uproar in the news, as the people of the world focused their attention back on Syria once again. Before this event occurred, Trump had been very vocal about his belief that the U.S. should not intervene in Syria and that the country should not actively work to take Assad out of power. He claimed that it wasn’t our fight and that we didn’t need to get even more involved in the Middle East. He had been putting out this message since before his campaign, even saying in a tweet during the 2013 sarin gas attack, “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict?"

Shortly after the public found out about this new attack, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration claimed that it was Assad who ordered and carried it out. He later spoke about the situation, showing his mortification and saying that this crossed more than just the red line. Then, 3 days later, news broke about a missile strike on a Syrian military base located in Damascus. It was later found out that the strike was ordered solely by President Trump. As new information continued to arise, it was revealed that Trump had actually called Russia beforehand and advised them to evacuate the military base.

But why exactly had Trump engaged in this attack? Did he suddenly have a change of heart regarding the situation in Syria? Did he decide that U.S. intervention was necessary? More likely than not, this is not the case. Many republicans, also known as Trump’s most prominent voter base, have criticized Obama for never doing anything in response to the chemical weapons attacks in 2013. The was probably nothing more than security theatre and a political flexing of the United States’s muscles, nothing but a means of showing that the U.S. is not afraid to take action, even though this was one of the most minimalistic ways in which to do so. Furthermore, most experts believe this to merely be a one-off attack, with nothing expanding from it.

If this was more than just a one-off attack, however, if this is the beginning of U.S. intervention in Syria, then people should be wary of leaping right into the war. The last time America invaded a country to take down its leader because of the fear that he had possession of WMD’s, that country was Iraq, and that leader was Saddam Hussein. And the world is still feeling the ripples of that war today. It led the way for the rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, two of the most universally hated organizations in the world. If the U.S. does actually intend to invade Syria and take Assad out of power, they should be very careful with how they do it, or we might see the rise of an even more destructive force take the place of the Syrian government.