Let me being by saying this: no act of war is good. War is sometimes necessary but it’s never good. I write this blog post knowing that “good” means “the best of a series of bad choices.”
A few days ago I spoke about how President Trump is learning that his election propelled him into a tough job. He ran on a platform of America First, meaning that regardless of our history or our place in the world, we bear no responsibility for atrocities outside of our border.
But inventions in the 19th and 20th Centuries (telegraphs, telephones, cameras, radios, televisions, computers, the internet, social media, OK, you get the idea) provide us access to events thousands of miles from us within seconds. And this access brings with it a moral compass (religious or not) that commands that we care about people we don’t know and do what we can to defeat injustice and value human life regardless of where they live and what they look like.
In the 21st Century our recognition that we know what evil rulers are doing to their own people and it matters to us. As Americans who care about human rights we cannot ignore what is happening in Syria because if it can happen to them, it can happen to us. Their lives matter to us and once we learn of their plight we cannot look away or pretend it isn’t happening.
And so for of us who weep for those who died at the hand of President Bashar Al Assad we applaud last week’s airstrike. We applaud Mr. Trump’s decision to move away from his belief that we don’t care about what happens outside our borders.
But, at the same time, I worry about the path ahead of us. Both President Assad and Russian President Putin condemned these actions I’m not certain Mr. Trump has a plan for what happens next. I recognize that Mr. Trump was horrified by pictures of dead and dying children from Sarin attacks from Syria, but what does he do next?
Mr. Trump proclaimed last week that he is not the “president of the world.” On March 30th Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proclaimed that only the Syrian people should decide who leads them.
Let me state simply my concern: President Trump ordered the attack on Syria because he saw horrific pictures on Faux News. It’s likely more complex than this. Presidential advisor Steve Bannon argues against foreign intervention and almost certainly opposed the strike. On the other end of this issue, Presidential son in law Jared Kushner certainly argued in favor of it. The last few weeks have shown that Mr. Trump listens to his son in law more than his advisor and I’m certain this contributed to the strike.
That said, I’m not certain anyone in the White House has a 2nd step to a policy nobody seems to articulate. In the days since the strike Mr. Assad has continued to murder his own people.
A “first strike” is the easy part. Now comes the hard part: What do we do now?