Chemical weapons are some of the nastiest things to come out of war. They can’t tell the difference between a soldier and a child. Depending on the level of exposure, death can come after a few agonizing minutes. Those that do survive often live with neurological, physiological, and mental wounds for the rest of their life.
It’s no wonder this was a “red line” for former President Barack Obama in the Syrian Civil War. When chemical weapons were used, however, the United States of America was nowhere to be found.
Obama’s excuse? Chlorine gas, used in the attack, isn’t a chemical weapon.
“Chlorine itself has not been listed as a chemical weapon,” the former president stated.
Chemical weapon or not, chlorine gas isn’t pretty. I won’t list the effects here, but accounts from the First World War paint a grisly picture of chlorine’s gruesome interaction with human skin, eyes, and organs.
Let’s give Obama a pass and let him play around with semantics. President Donald Trump operates by a different standard.
Syria attempted to test Trump’s red line with chemical weapons, possibly expecting the same response as Obama. Within a week, Trump had U.S. warships parked on the coast. A few missile salvos made his position on the matter painfully clear.
Now, apparently not done with poking the sleeping giant, Syria has doubled down on chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad has given the green light for use of chlorine in what is expected to be the last true battle of the Syrian Civil War.
Idlib province is the last remaining rebel holdout, and the target of Assad’s chemical ambitions.
The remaining rebels are a motley crew — the survivors include al-Qaeda allies and the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Islamic terrorist group that was founded in China. Unfortunately, the area is also crawling with civilians.
The province of Idlib had a population of 1.5 million in 2011, giving it roughly the same population as modern-day Hawaii. Although international treaties forbid use of force against civilian targets, the Syrian Civil War is already rife with humanitarian crimes.
Trump leveled a stark warning against Assad, telling him to play fair — or else.
“If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry, and the United States is going to get very angry too,” President Trump said.
A new initiative approved by the Commander-in-Chief would see 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria indefinitely. The purpose is to ensure the total eradication of ISIS as well as the return of Iranian forces to their home country.
The Middle East has ultimately been a quagmire for the United States military. Every insurgent force we fight is an expert in asymmetrical warfare, draining our economy while giving us no real gains. We have nothing to show in the almost 17 years we have spent engaged in Afghanistan. Our time in Iraq did unseat a dictator, but our exit gave ISIS a playground full of abandoned U.S. equipment.
This doesn’t mean we should ignore evil in the world. Trump was right to act once his red line had been violated. Assad knows to tread carefully now — the second lesson from the United States is sure to be more painful than the first.
As for the best Syria policy? Donald Trump himself hinted at it in 2013.
If they want a war, we’re always ready to give them one. But let’s hope they don’t.
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