Crosstalk: Syrian bombing raises questions

The United States’ missile strike April 6 on Shayrat air base in central Syria as a direct response to that nation’s use of nerve gas to kill dozens of innocent men, women and children was not only an appropriate response, but long overdue.

President Donald Trump was forced to act after international organizations and the Obama Administration failed to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from possessing and deploying chemical weapons.

Assad is accused by rights groups and many Middle Eastern and Western nations as being responsible for a litany of war crimes in the six years he has been engaged in a civil war. Various reports put the war’s toll at over 400,000 killed. The United Nations has recorded 5 million refugees from the conflict.

Trump’s action against Syria improved American credibility after President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce a self-imposed “red-line” in 2013 when Assad killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

Obama said in 2012 that the United States would respond, possibly militarily, if Assad used chemical weapons, but then failed to act when it happened.

Clearly, Obama was wrong in touting that Assad had gotten rid of chemical weapons, his reason for not taking action.

Although some Democrats have accused Trump of violating his legal authority by taking military action without Congressional approval, both Obama and former President George W. Bush also used executive powers granted under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump will need to turn to Congress for development of a strategic plan and goals if he plans on continuing actions in Syria. The president is calling for Assad to be deposed, and relations with Russia are strained by that nation’s continued support for the embattled Syrian leader. However, getting rid of Assad does not mean that democracy will reign. As in the case of Egypt, replacement of a bad leader can bring something just as bad or even worse.

One of the larger stories in the Middle East is the persecution and execution of thousands of Christians. At least 40 Coptic Christians in Egypt died in a Palm Sunday bombing of two churches.

In Syria, it is believed that about 30 percent of the population were Christians in the 1920s, but that number has fallen to about 10 percent today.

In areas seized by the jihadist group Islamic State, Christians are being ordered to convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death. It is believed that hundreds of Christians have been kidnapped by militants.

In Iraq, where Christians are being butchered in mass executions by IS, their number has plunged from one million to just 275,000 in the last 12 years alone.

What is happening in the Middle East is a humanitarian crisis that developed nations need to deal with. When governments target and annhilate innocent citizens, global action is needed. It should not be left to the United States to deal unilaterally with tyrants.

Trump inherited a foreign policy mess and strong leadership is going to be needed on so many fronts it is frightening.

— RaeLynn Ricarte

I always hesitate to express an opinion when America takes military action (with the exception of the Iraq war, which I opposed prior to the invasion) because my view is distant and I clearly don't have even a fraction of the information available to those making decisions.

The rhetoric coming from the White House is unclear – is bombing the Syrian airport part of a greater strategy, or an expensive slap in the face to former President Obama? Much has been said about Obama's “weakness” in regards to his “red line” in Syria, little about the country's future.

Obama's “red line” was, by most accounts, a low point in his presidential leadership. However, there are those that point out his original decision to not attack, when he found he lacked congressional support, resulted in an agreement allowing the destruction of 600 metric tons of chemical agents held by Syria.

That was a win, but the use of chemical weapons in Syria continued. I remember hearing a recorded interview regarding the decisions he made regarding Syria, and his frustration and regret was palpable.

Yet he stood by what he did. I honestly can't decide if he was wrong, given the lack of response by the world community.

In terms of sending a signal to the Syrian regime — and Russia —Trump’s attack was perhaps successful. How successful will depend how it fits into the long-term strategy of the United States.

What that strategy is has not been made clear – The White House said in a press conference it reserves the option of “future action” against Syria if President Bashar al-Assad gasses his people or attacks them again with barrel bombs.

Yet in a statement clarifying the administration’s reference to barrel bombs, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement, "The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest, as was determined following that government's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.

“And as the president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses."

Whether “barrel bombs” will serve as a “red line,” is now unclear — a sort of “pink line'” that may or not come into play... and they aren't going to tell us about it.

Scary times, but I take comfort that in the area of military defense our leadership is supported by both parties: Secretary of Defense James Mattis was confirmed 98 to 1, the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, was confirmed 88-11, and the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley was confirmed 96-4. The leader of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, was confirmed by a “filibuster proof” 66-32, if the filibuster rule were still in effect for cabinet picks.

But although I appreciate Trump's new view of Putin – Putin has morphed from hero to liar in a matter of days – I do wonder about the White House motivation and wish he had a more stable view of our role in the world.

And I sure hope Trump has attacked Syria with more in view than poking Obama in the eye.

— Mark Gibson

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