Calm Down about the Syrian Airbase Attack

I admit to having mixed feelings about President Trump’s decision to bomb the Syrian airbase in response to Assad’s chemical attack. It is certainly worth a moment’s pause to wonder if we are now Team America World Police. Time will tell, and I make no prediction, but in itself, sending cruise missiles into Syria did not necessarily represent any change in the President’s stated non-interventionist policy. Let’s see what happens before we get all hysterical and start jumping off the Trump Train. I love Laura Ingraham, but she was freaked out about it. I guess my man Michael Savage was too. Okay, let’s think this through together.

First of all, President Trump did not just out-of-the-blue decide that chemical weapons are a different kind of bad. Chemical weapons have a special place historically in the arsenal of hideous things humanity has dreamed up to torture itself with, and to our credit, we at least have tried to stifle the impulse to use them. Look up the 1899 Hague Convention, and the Declaration which sought to ban the use of projectiles to release “asphyxiating or deleterious gases,” which unfortunately did not hold up during WWI, so we tried again with the “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare,” signed  in Geneva in 1925, again not completely successful so,  still trying, we have the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, to which most of the world today belongs (including, by the way, Syria since 2013). Notwithstanding the spotty effectiveness of these agreements, the point is that chemical weaponry has a longstanding reputation as something that is especially awful, and deserving of at least some attempt to stop nations from using it.

By the way, what’s wrong with us, as people, that we would think up something like using poison gas to kill each other in the first place? Conventional weapons are not nasty enough? I remember a time in science class back in…probably the 6th grade, when the teacher was discussing the atomic bomb, and how, ideally, it would not hit the earth, but explode higher up in order to, his words: “kill more people.” So me and Tom Murphy, sitting in the back of the room, started to whisper to each other “kill more people, kill more people” in a lobotomized, deranged manner. We thought it was hilarious (6th grade), the idea that someone would seriously want to figure out the optimal height for an atom bomb to go off for maximum death toll, an idea that is itself couched in the absurdity of someone thinking up such a weapon to begin with. Or a weapon like sarin gas. Hey boss, I’ve been messing around with this stuff in the lab, and I think if we were to put it in bombs we could not only blow shit up, but also spread a deadly neurological poison that would kill more people, kill more people.

That’s crazy; we’re crazy. So, if we come to our senses from time to time and agree that, as a civilized world, if we must fight, we will at least use some restraint and not use chemical weapons, that’s good. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the line on April 4 when one or more of his warplanes dropped sarin gas on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria, and innocent people died horrible deaths as a result. Of those facts, there is little doubt, and if anybody anywhere was going to do anything meaningful about it, it was going to be the United States or absolutely nobody.

The Left will, of course, either not understand or pretend not to understand the rationale for bombing the Syrian airbase from which the attack was launched, and will find a way to slime President Trump over it. A case in point, Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes, “…what we know of the decision-making process is anything but reassuring. Just days before the strike, the Trump administration seemed to be signaling lack of interest in Syrian regime change.” Which is like saying I don’t understand why he ate that banana when he just said yesterday he was not interested in spaghetti. (Choose your own examples.)

So, it is possible that, unprompted by any additional instance of chemical weapons use, President Trump will send troops into Damascus tomorrow and I’ll feel like the idiot here. But so far so good. And I do understand that there is no shortage of horrible things going on in the world today—Laura mentioned Africa—but the choice is not a binary, Respond to Everything, or Respond to Nothing. We need to start somewhere. We need to pick our spots, and this was a good one.


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