President Donald Trump and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talk before a meeting with leadership from both Special Operations and Central Commands at MacDill, AFB, FL, Feb. 6, 2017. (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen/Released)
While President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons’ use is a war crime, it does not justify America removing him from power. The best punitive policy against Assad is to slap his regime with sanctions.
If President Trump’s April 6 Tomahawk missile strike was a one-time strike in retaliation for Assad’s chemical weapons’ attack, then this author agrees with it. Likewise, and actually not the subject of this article, if Trump chooses to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, this author agrees with that too.
However, the growing concern is that President Trump has fully embraced the Syria policy espoused by many of America’s Sunni Arab allies and the so-called Senate Republican hawks, led by John McCain, which want to use American military power to topple Assad’s regime.
Based on lessons learned from America’s regime change action in Iraq, toppling Assad’s regime is nearly 100% likely to result in even greater carnage and chaos in Syria, if that were even possible, and make America less safe.
One would think that the lessons learned in Iraq are readily evident but they are not because President Obama himself did not grasp them. In 2011, Obama, forgetting Iraq’s lessons, used airstrikes to topple the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya and then just walked away from that sectarian country without setting up a successful government. The result was a failed state, a new home for al Qaeda and ISIS, and traffickers of every stripe.
As bad as Gaddafi was, he provided authority in sectarian Libya. When Obama used air strikes to take away Libya’s government, it shattered the chains that had pinned down man’s baser nature and loosed horrors beyond the imagination upon the Libyan people.
In America, millions felt patriotic about Obama’s air strikes to remove Gaddafi as an evil dictator was finally gone. However, the problem was what happened afterwards: Obama failed to apply Iraq’s lesson to Libya. He abandoned Libya to chaos and civil war. Clearly, Gaddafi should have remained in power.
If Trump manages to remove Assad through air strikes alone, Iraq and Libya tell us unmistakably what will happen to Syria. The fractured rebels will advance on Assad’s constituencies, which for the record include millions of women and children just as precious in God’s sight as those loving lambs killed in the chemical attack, and slaughter them wholesale with knives, bullets, and bombs. A new immigration crisis will explode as those currently protected from the Syrian civil war flee for Europe and America.
Following the civilian carnage, the rebels will be unwilling to agree on who will run the country. Without American troops on the ground to provide law and order, they will turn on one another and the Syrian civil war will enter a post-Assad phase of carnage. Far from swinging Syria into Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and America’s sphere, Syria will remain a breeding ground for radical jihadists.
As bad of a dictator as Assad is and as terrible as it is that Assad has aligned himself with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, Assad nevertheless has a functioning government that provides law and order. There is a civilization over there. If President Trump topples Assad then only sectarian rebel groups will remain. That is a nightmare and the doomsday scenario.
The only way that this author can support Assad’s removal is if President Trump also sends to Syria a couple hundred thousand American troops to help stand up a transitional government. U.S. policy in Syria will fail if Trump authorizes air strikes alone to topple Assad.