A few days ago, the Trump administration says, and I’m paraphrasing, “Assad is here to stay, deal with it.” A few days later, Assad drops some poison gas bombs on a village and kills 100 citizens or so. Trump launches 59 Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian air base.
The part I don’t get is this: Assad already had “gasses citizens” on his resume when Trump accepted him into the fold of recognized heads of state. So whence the indignation when Assad does what Assad has done before? To me, it’s like this: your wife asks you to invite your brother Harry over for Thanksgiving dinner. You remind your wife that Harry has atrocious table manners and that she has said he is not fit to sit at anybody’s dinner table, even at a soup kitchen. “But he’s your brother,” she says, “and I’m just going to accept that fact.” But when Harry lets out a monster belch between courses, your wife has a fit and throws her wine glass at Harry.
So much for dealing with it.
Mind you, I’m not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing to accept the “political reality” of Assad. The man is clearly a monster of the first order. But what is knocking out one airbase going to accomplish? Back in first grade, there was a kid named O’Donnell, who was as much of a juvenile delinquent as a first grader could possibly be The nuns used to rap O’Donnell’s knuckles with a ruler when he misbehaved, which was all the time. He would laugh it off. Assad must be laughing now. Russia will give him more planes.
Destroying the airbase is like kicking the saddle because the mule won’t move. Those six people, whoever they were, that were killed when the airbase was bombed didn’t wake up the other day and say “hey, let’s go drop some Sarin gas on such and such village!” Assad told them to do it. Now they are dead, and Assad is ordering new planes from Russia. What’s the idea here, that the Syrian military is going to refuse to do the bad things that Assad tells them to do because we might send some Tomahawks their way? Newsflash: Assad is a lot more scary than 59 Tomahawk missiles. The missile will kill you instantly. Assad might take weeks to kill you. And he’ll probably kill your family too.
By the way, those missiles cost anywhere from $800,000 to $1.5 million each, depending on whom you believe. With tax day looming, I’m reminded that I worked a whole year to pay for just part of one of those missiles. 59 launched, 6 deaths. There’s a good chance that the missile with my name on it didn’t kill anybody. I’d hate to think that I worked all year to kill a portion of a Syrian not named Assad.
If we really wanted to punish Assad for gassing civilians, shouldn’t we aim those missiles at his home and not some air force base? It sobered up Qaddafi pretty quickly.
There’s something else I need help understanding. I don’t mean to sound callous, but why is it so much worse to gas civilians than to kill them in other ways? Assad kills hundreds of civilians every month, and we were willing to accept that as a “political reality.” In fairness to Assad, shouldn’t we have given him a checklist? Torture, ok. Extrajudicial execution, ok. Cluster bombs, ok. Indiscriminate shelling, ok. Landmines, ok. Gas, unthinkable!
I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t quite understand all this. Nothing about the Syrian war makes any sense. Who’s fighting whom, and for what? We know there’s Assad, and ISIS, and Al Qaeda, and Turkey, and Russia, and Hezbollah, and a few dozen militia that go in and out of business more often than a Times Square clip joint. For such a tiny country that doesn’t have natural resources or make anything of any significance, Syria has managed to cause outsized problems for the rest of the world. All the rich and developed countries that are suffering a major Syrian headache are powerless to do anything about it.
It is mind boggling.