At two o’clock in the morning whilst lying in bed, phone in hand and sceptical of any sleep, my attention was grabbed by a single sentence on a BBC article.
“Our North America correspondent says a strike is imminent.”
I had to read it three times over. Sure enough, a message came through from a friend in said continent.
“It actually happened. We had to do something, right?”
59 tomahawk missiles had blasted off towards a Syrian airbase before I knew it. Perhaps I overreacted at first. The idea of President Trump wading into the Syrian civil war, with the full force of the arsenal of democracy behind him, was enough to cause me a few moments of mild panic.
But alas, as the smoke cleared from the crumbling hangars, and I caught up on my overdue sleep, the full details emerged. Not only did President Trump pull off a small scale, precise intervention with no disastrous consequences, he also showed up President Putin, embarrassed his detractors, put Bashar Al Assad in his place, and most significantly, demonstrated to the world that the US, as the world’s last superpower, should be heeded when it sets red lines.
Whether Trump was genuine in the sadness he expressed for the victims of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun can be debated. For the most part, I believe it did factor in somewhat to his decision, from what can be taken from his sombre speech about the attack, yet it must be remembered he viciously attacked the Obama administration at even the hint of intervention after the last chemical attack in 2013. Nevertheless, a lot can change in 4 years, as Trump himself is a testament to. What is important is that Trump, and his advisors, heeding the failure of Obama’s actions, chose a tactical, small scale and intelligent response. This is good news for both Trumps backers and the groups that despise him. He promised no more interventions in the Middle East, but he also promised to make America a more formidable opponent on the world stage. Friday mornings strike perfectly achieved that balance.
Assad has now been given a warning. The Western world is no longer willing to tolerate his deplorable actions against civilians. This decisive tone is one that’s been sorely lacking in Western strategy. Soured by Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, America and its allies have backed away from any and all intervention, which is what has allowed the Syrian regime to recklessly slaughter its own people, and paved the way for Russian opportunism.
I was one of those against intervention when the vote arose in parliament. I too saw Libya and the mess that was Syria, and saw no way we could fix it. I am in no way suggesting 59 tomahawk missiles have gotten us any closer to a solution. What we’ve seen over the past two years however, is the cost of not intervening. What’s the point of being the world’s only superpower, if you can’t prevent the indefensible bloodshed we’ve seen in Syria? Allowing another nation to intervene, as we layback in our armchairs in judgement suggesting that we’re preserving peace, is something known as appeasement.
And we all know that doesn’t end well.