Hunter Gilbert is a freshman data journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about technology and rights for The Maneater.
In the early morning hours of April 7, U.S. destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk missiles aimed at the Al Shayrat airbase in western Syria.
It was a poor decision made by individuals who failed to consider the repercussions in regard to Syria’s relationship to Russia. The current administration jumped the gun. The president did not consult Congress and, to the public’s knowledge, Congress had no say in the actions that transpired. This strike did not serve in the best interest of Americans, it does not combat terrorism, and under the present context, it is not related to humanitarian aid. To justify strikes, previous presidents have used those reasons. Trump, on the other hand, did not. Therefore, Congress should have had some sort of say on this action.
The two Navy destroyers targeted aircrafts, aircraft shelters, supply bunkers, air defense systems and radar systems. U.S. military intelligence officials believed a chemical weapons strike, which precipitated the American involvement, originated from this particular base, but officials used the same argument to justify the invasion of Iraq. According to the LA Times, Syrian officials reported 15 people were killed during the U.S. attack, but you can’t always believe what Syria’s regime and its news networks report.
For starters, this strike does not completely eliminate the Syrian regime's ability to use chemical weapons. They do have other air bases. Instead, this is an ineffective warning from U.S. officials that the U.S. will strike Syria’s bases once more if chemical weapons are used again on civilians. That will not deter the regime, but instead force them underground or make them use guerilla tactics.
The U.S. dropped 12,192 bombs on Syria last year on alleged terrorist forces.This has proven ineffective at fighting rebel groups and terrorists. How will simply dropping bombs undermine a sovereign nation? The U.S. has also been supporting rebel groups in the country and in Iraq for over a year now, so in a sense we have indirectly been fighting a proxy war against the Syrian regime already — this is just a far more direct attack.
Just scratching the surface, the attack on the base seems like a good thing. But when looking at the geopolitical quagmire that is the Syrian Civil War, one would beg to differ. Russia, an ally of the Syrian regime, is not in favor of this strike. Russia also has a large part to play in how the international community will respond to this attack. It has used its veto power on the U.N. Security Council seven times to block U.N. resolutions that either were critical of Syria or attempted to further impose sanctions on its ally. Russia will continue to stand by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Launching missiles at a Syrian airbase isn’t diplomacy, and it won’t work to deter the regime’s actions. Rather, the strike will just infuriate Russia and the Syrian regime as it oversteps authority.
This attack was not wise and will not be the end of the conflict. If the U.S. does succeed in removing Assad, where will we go from there? I do not doubt the U.S. military’s ability to level opposing military forces, but as we saw in Iraq, new governments have difficulty picking up what’s left of their respective countries and actually maintaining them independently.
Russia has failed at coercing the Syrian regime into removing their chemical weapons under the 2013 agreement, but the U.S. should not have responded on its own. There are proper ways to engage in this conflict, whether through congressional approval or by forming a coalition with our allies. The way the U.S. went about conducting itself was amateurish to say the least.