Syrian Gas Attack: Options for President Trump

Syrian Gas Attack: Options for President Trump

There has been another gas attack in Syria.

After responding with 59 tomahawks on a Syrian air base last year, the US remained largely mute as other reported attacks occurred over the last 12 months.  But the size and scale of the most recent attack, and the photos of dead children, foaming at the mouth, have gone viral, President Trump seems poised to respond.

The battlefield is different and more dangerous this time.  The President has threatened a missile barrage on Syria despite the embedding of Russian forces throughout government-controlled areas.   His tweet reads as follows:

Syrian Gas Attack: Options for President Trump

American soldiers have already engaged Russian irregulars and easily won the battle, slaughtering the Russians and their Syrian government allies.  No doubt Putin will be looking for revenge.  The Syrian quagmire runs deep, and there are no easy answers for US policy.

Geo-political events can affect your money.  It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but markets are affected by changes on the ground in countries throughout the world.  You would have expected the Syrian Civil War, which started 7 years ago in March 2011, to have affected trade routes in the Mediterranean, oil prices, and even the price of US treasuries, as it would be assumed that debt would increase as the US funded stabilization efforts in the region.  Markets have shrugged off the carnage and devastation caused by that conflict.

Or have they?

It is easy to look at the stock market and say “no way” it could be higher … but isn’t that what we said at Dow 15,000 … Dow 20,000?  Transportation and insurance costs have already been steadily going up for global logistics companies which traverse the Mediterranean and run through Europe.  What about the human cost – was the next great scientist or engineer killed in the Syrian conflict?  How much of the human capital was destroyed and lost on the ground during this war … or that will be lost in the near future?

With the staggering levels of human suffering and loss, and potential damage to the marketplace in and around the Middle East, the price has been heavy from the Syrian Civil War.

The most recent chemical weapons attack – weapons that Syria was supposed to have given up according to the Obama Administration – certainly puts President Trump in the difficult position of deciding what will the American response be … there are not a lot of good options:

I. 3 reasons Trump should NOT strike Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons:

  1. War is over … our side lost. It is hard to over-state the calamity and abject disaster that has been left for Trump.  A red line around the use of chemical weapons was drawn, and we did not enforce it.  The Russians, seeing our unwillingness to keep our word, returned to the Middle East for the first time since we moved them out 45 years ago.  The order of magnitude in the size and scope of this crisis is simply of a scale we have never seen: (A) We had excluded Russia from the region since 1973.  They are now the dominant power in the region; (B) Iran is on the Golan Heights overlooking Israel, our ally;  (C) Saudi Arabia has launched wars in the region, a Sunni/Shia Civil War launched because they do not believe America will protect them; (D) Turkey – a NATO treaty partner – is actively working against our Kurdish allies and WITH the Russians against our interests; (E) Russia controls the airspace over Syria;  (F) American credibility is non-existent, and worse, considered a joke … most Americans will say “so what, not our problem anymore….”  But a Sunni/Shia war, an Iranian war on Israel sponsored by Russia … these are basically the worst parts of the Bible happening right now.  But still, many share the opinion that this war is over … better to save American lives and treasure and stay out.
  2. Picking a fight with Russia. Head to head, Americans always win.  Politicians involved???  That’s when our guys face their biggest obstacle.  An escalation on the ground which puts US forces in a combat zone shooting at Russians is what could be waiting for us, now that we have ceded Syria, and the larger Middle East, to the Russians.  Rebuild at home, rebuild the military.  Get ready to fight for another day, not a fight today in the Middle East.
  3. Israel can handle it … they already have. Israel has been waging a quiet war with Iran in Syria on their own for the last 5 years.  After the most recent chemical attack, Israeli warplanes launched a barrage of missiles against the airbase where the chemical weapons originated.  Israel has the technology, and the capability, to handle the western response. So, let’s let them.

II. 3 Reasons Trump SHOULD strike Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons:

  1. Keep Russia, Iran on notice….and more importantly – North Korea. The United States should respond for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is ensuring Russia and Iran are on notice that we will not allow human rights abuses and violations of the chemical weapons ban treaty to occur in this conflict.  The biggest message is to send to North Korea, who is watching intently on the nature and timing of our response.  It would be preferred it is was not just lobbing a few cruise missiles at a runway, but a more robust and consequential campaign against the Assad regime.
  2. Support our allies in the region. Israel is alone, and its enemies are circling the embattled Jewish state.  Make no mistake, the previous administration ceded the Middle East to Russia and Iran, and our allies are without question in danger.  The US withdrawal from Iraq, and incompetence in Syria, has bolstered enemies of America.  A strong response is needed to reassure our friends, which is not just Israel, but also Sunni Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Christians and ethnic minorities in Iraq and elsewhere.
  3. It is the moral thing to do. America’s role as the “Shining City on the Hill” sort of requires us to act.  One of our great qualities as a people is a foreign policy informed and ordered along moral grounds.  While we do not wish to go abroad seeking monsters to destroy, we have always stood up for and protected those who were in need.  While that moral strength has been challenged in recent years, our failure to act when a country uses chemical weapons is a dangerous precedent to set.  We are paying a steep price, and the people in the region are paying an even steeper price, for that lack of a timely response.

The United States remains the last, best hope for mankind.  We are the only country capable of protecting our allies and enforcing the global chemical weapons ban.  Assad and Syria have lied about destroying their stockpiles, and innocent civilians have suffered a grisly fate.  America’s enemies will continue to take ground if we do not stand firm.  And in this case, it is an easier decision to strike back – it is the just and moral thing to do.

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