It appears the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, namely Sarin, on its own citizens. It's only human to feel grief and outrage. Something needs to be done.
The frustrating truth is, we're not the ones to do it. Sryia poses no direct threat to the United States or its interests. Military action on our part is simply not justified. It would be nice to see the United Nations grow a pair and intervene, but we have no real authority to act on our own. To do so is to engage in exactly the sort of overbearing forced regime changes we so resent Vladimir Putin for doing.
It is also a complete violation of a very significant campaign promise made by Donald Trump, which gives me pause. Trump ran on the idea that we wouldn't get involved in things like this, that we wouldn't become the world's policeman, and that he'd pursue a Wilsonian "America First" sort of isolationism.
That appears to be out the window. But why, and why now? The Syrian government has been killing its citizens for seven years. The whole time, President Trump told us it wasn't our fight. Am I to believe that a picture of a dying child changed his entire world view?
Perhaps. The man is a living Markov chain, often appearing to run on the whims and impulses of the moment. The idea of such a man sending our soldiers into war is very unsettling.
I suspect it's worse, and here comes the fun part: in which I lament the loss of Steve Bannon, of all people. Bannon was a huge influence on Trump's policy vision, and at the center of that was avoiding foreign military intervention. There have been innumerable reports of him openly feuding with the hawks in Trump's circle. I have a very difficult time accepting that his ouster from the NSC yesterday doesn't have something to do with Trump's sudden, rash decision to order missile strikes on Syria.
In short, I think somebody got to Trump. I mentioned Wilson before, and his early term is worth revisiting. He ran on a populist, isolationist platform, much like Trump. He won reelection with the slogan "he kept us out of war." He even pursued a position of neutrality when the Lusitania was sunk with 128 Americans on board. We're expected to believe a single telegram from Germany to Mexico suddenly swayed a nation from neutrality to a war stance.
I doubt it was that simple then, and I doubt it now. The timing of Bannon's departure lines up too well.
So now we're committed, and we're very likely alone. Ambassador Haley has already told the UN that we'll continue to strike if Assad crosses ill-defined red lines. Well, as of today, Assad has resumed his bombings of civilian targets. If we fail to respond, we look weak, and that's not something this President will abide at all.
We've no justification and no coalition. All this does is edge us closer to a repeat of our Cold War bush wars with Russia. What's worse is that we live in a time when wars never end. We still have Afghanistan on our plate, and it's not as if Iraq is stable. There is absolutely no point and nothing to be gained by us opening a third front in Syria.
I don't know who's whispering in Trump's ear right now, but it isn't Bannon and it certainly isn't Maddis. This whole fiasco suggests that Maddis is somehow out of the loop, and that frightens me most of all.
It's a morbid parallel that the strikes occurred one day after the 100th anniversary of our entry into World War I. 116,000 Americans died in those trenches, driven to madness, choking on poisoned air, aching with starvation, and ultimately cut down by the brutal machinery Europe had adopted to carry on their petty centuries-old grudge matches.
We had no place settling the world's scores then, and we have no place doing so now.