Syria: Trump just betrayed his last promise – not to get involved in foreign wars and regime change adventures. Now he’s squarely in the direction of Hillary Clinton.
By Agha Nayyar Raza
Many had hoped to see President Donald Trump fulfil his non-interventionist pledge and re-orient American Middle East policy away from the current strategy of supporting the most regressive and autocratic dictatorships in the region and arming extremists in some places while combatting them in others.
Sadly, since Trump has taken office, he has done little more than add his uniquely chaotic spin to the strategy pursued so unsuccessfully by his rival Hillary Clinton in her time as Secretary of State and as well as during her Presidential run.
In part this is because his political persona is torn between an an “America First” isolationism that would have him abandon the rest of the world to its fate and the aggressive, macho and impulsive streak that that bombs first and asks questions later. But it is also due to the fact that, as a man with no concrete policies of his own, he must turn to the foreign policy establishment, both in the media and in government, for options.
The Neocon interventionists may have failed to place Hillary in the White House, but they still control the parameters of the debate in the Capitol and on the airwaves. And according to those parameters, direct military action against a foreign power, which does not pose a direct threat to the US and actually supports the country in its strategic aim of fighting terrorist groups, is the only possible response.
There is absolutely no way for us to know, at this stage, who carried out the attack. Several prominent US politicians have already questioned the narrative.
There have been no impartial teams on the ground to assess the situation and the Syrian conflict has been rife with fake-news and false-flags.
What we do know is that it makes no sense for a government winning a civil war to engage in a one-off apparently targeted chemical weapons attack against a civilian target. In fact, the only way the attack makes sense is if Bashar Al-Assad is a senseless monster, a cartoon villain who does evil for the pure joy of it.
Conveniently, this is the portrait painted of him in Washington by the think tanks and media outlets funded out of or affiliated with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Bashar the monster is the only possible justification for their continued support of a Syrian opposition that has degenerated into a ragtag of sectarian extremists that bear a striking resemblance to the terrorists that we claim to be fighting elsewhere in the world. And so Bashar the monster has been produced and Trump, at once directionless and impulsive has done exactly what his twitter feed told him to, undertaken an act of war against a sovereign nation without proof and without (unlike his predecessor Obama) going to Congress first.
Let us be clear, like Mubarak, like Saddam, like Gadhafi and like the princes of Al-Saud, Bashar Al-Assad is a tyrant. Both before and during the current war, his regime has been responsible for some abhorrent things. But he was and remains the closest thing in Syria to an authority able to restore order and prevent several different stripes of genocide against Alawites, Twelver Shias, Christians, Druze and secularists. He does not deserve anyone’s endorsement or anyone’s support. But he does deserve to be allowed to restore some semblance of the secular society that existed in Syria before the war. Any support from outside for any opposition group hinders that attempt.
In all the chaos, is heartening to see that some Republicans have spoken out against Trump’s bombings and many prominent supporters are enraged, but we are forced once again to ask: What will it take, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia Yemen and Syria to wean Washington off the hard opiate of intervention?
One thing is certain, with so many Russians in Syria, if Trump wants to keep doing things by the DC interventionist playbook, he had best be very careful about who gets caught up in the collateral damage.