On the evening of April 6, 2017, about 6:30 p.mm. here on the East Coast of the United States, the USS Porter and USS Ross launched a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles. Their target: an airfield and depot reportedly used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to launch a sarin gas attack on their own civilians earlier in the week. I've been following the Syrian Civil War since the very beginning, and I have mixed feelings about our intervention we just staged. A lot of our fellow Americans don't understand how many moving pieces this war has - there's way more going on than meets the eye. The foremost thing on my mind right now is the civilians caught in the middle of all this.
Let me say first that I’m neither a total hawk nor a total dove. I study history, and history is filled with the wars of mankind. War is a part of civilization. But history has also taught me how cruel war can be. General William Tecumseh Sherman – the man who burned his way through Georgia in 1864 – once said, “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to refine it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” But God, if General Sherman could see the wars of the world today…
I’ve written before on the plight of the people of Syria. Their country has been shattered for six years. There are children whose whole life was lived in the middle of war. Because we’re Americans and we’ve been protected for so long from war in our own country, I think we often take for granted the comfort of our homeland. It’s easy for us to say that the Syrian people just need to rise up and fight for their country. But what we don’t realize is that there is no one Syrian people, and there’s barely any country left to fight for.
The Syrian Civil War is much more complicated than people understand. People on Facebook talk about it like it's so simple, like it's just us and the good-guy rebels vs. bad-guy Assad and ISIS hanging out in the corner. There's way more going on here than that, and there is no silver bullet to fix everything. Watch this video below for an explanation of what the hell is actually happening in this mess:
Now imagine all those different factions and countries and terrorist groups and splinter cells all battling across cities and towns with innocent civilians - who want no part of it - stuck in the middle. That's the biggest problem right now, and it's honestly one of the world's biggest crises at the moment: how to handle the hundreds of thousands of people trying to make it to safety.
When we launched our cruise missiles, yes, we struck a harsh and inhumane regime who murdered its own people. That's all fine and well, but here's the thing everyone - including our administration - needs to understand moving forward: we don't just get to launch missiles, wag our finger at Assad, and get to walk away as heroes. President Trump, who was harshly against involvement in Syria even after the 2013 gas attack, completely reversed himself on policy. In justifying intervention, Trump said, "Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children."
Yes, President Trump, you are correct. I oppose you on damn near everything, even on who you are as a human being, but I can support you at least somewhat on this intervention you decided upon. People are needlessly dying in Syria, and something needs to happen to put this war to an end. But there are two crucial things you need to understand right now.
One: we have just stepped to the very edge of international conflict. Despite your admiration of him, President Putin of the Russian Federation is no friend of ours. Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said we came "within an inch" of a shooting war with them. If we're going to do this, for God's sake, if it's the only time you ever do it, be rational and careful. If we go about this unwisely, we could go down a very dark path. April 6, 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the First World War. Let's not start a Third World War.
Two: if you truly ordered this missile strike for humanitarian reasons - because you feel sympathy for the Syrian people - you need to change your stance on refugees. You don't get to have your cake and eat it too. If we want to be the "good guys" in this crisis, we need to actually help these people. We have a very strict vetting system already in place. If you really want to take this route, you need to accept refugees from this war-torn place that we're now bombarding. Otherwise, we're all going to look like hypocrites.
Whatever we do, godspeed to the United States military, and bless the Syrian people, who deserve so much better than what they're enduring.