Syria: Mission Accomplished? Not So Fast!

“The solution to this conflict is not military. Donald Trump may have recently called the Syrian dictator an ‘animal,’ but deposing him would likely aggravate the crisis, not resolve it,” writes Alexandre Sirois.

Donald Trump should have saved himself the embarrassment before using the expression “Mission Accomplished!” after the strikes in Syria.

First, because in recent American military history, these two words seem to be a curse. They were used by George W. Bush’s administration two months after the beginning of the war in Iraq in 2003, just before the country descended into chaos, a situation for which the region is still paying the price today. It is this conflict which has given birth to, among others, the Islamic State. It is important not to forget this.

Next, it is both presumptuous and naïve to show exuberant enthusiasm following these new strikes. The war in Syria is far from ending, and the list of atrocities committed by Bashar Assad’s regime continues to lengthen. Without the risk of being mistaken, we can predict that there will be others. Many others.

In fact, we can’t even confirm with certainty that the regime will not use additional chemical weapons against its own people. The ultimate proof is that the first American strikes in April 2017 were not sufficient to dissuade the regime.

For that matter, if yesterday the Pentagon had insisted that it carried out a “severe blow” to Syria’s chemical weapons program, an American general had the integrity to recognize that the threat didn’t just disappear like magic. “I’m not saying that they’re not going to be able to reconstitute it,” Kenneth McKenzie said on the subject.

In short, it would have been wise of Donald Trump to avoid showing off.

That said, it is difficult to reproach the American administration for having responded, just as it is difficult to reproach the Canadian government for having supported this military operation, especially as these retaliations were orchestrated with allies (France and the United Kingdom) and the strikes were limited.

It is exclusively the Syrian chemical arsenal that was targeted. Around 100 missiles were launched at three sites.

Demonstrating such restraint was essential, as the risks of escalation were not to be overlooked. It was a balancing act.

It was imperative to make Assad’s regime understand that he could not use chemical weapons with impunity, as it seems – and the Pentagon claims to have proof – it did once again on April 7 in Duma.

But it was also crucial not to excessively weaken the regime. The solution to this conflict is not military. Trump may have recently called the Syrian dictator an ‘animal,’ but deposing him would likely aggravate the crisis, not resolve it. That is what happened in Libya in 2011, indisputably an example not to follow.

Elsewhere, it is also necessary to avoid uselessly provoking Russia and Iran, Syria’s two main allies. They were not targeted. This prudence clearly demonstrates that there are still “adults” within the American administration, though we often talk about the White House like it’s a “nursery.” It’s reassuring.

Now, we will see if these adults can persuade the president that it is essential to contribute to diplomatic efforts aimed at finding a solution to the conflict. Thus far, the management of this crisis passes a hundred feet over Trump’s head. However, if one thing has been clear from the beginning, it is that this crisis will not be resolved by firing several dozen missiles once a yea,r only to then stand idly by with crossed arms.

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