Responding in Syria

M2D Newsletter (4/11/18)

First, I’ll give my response to recent news from Syria, and then show a relevant video.

As you likely heard, the Syrian government killed dozens of civilians in a chemical attack on Saturday. Alongside France, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, and others, the U.S. is now weighing options of how to respond. However, like Jesse apologizing to Lauren…

…it’s too little, too late. Look no further than Israel’s shifting, increasingly aggressive strategy [New Yorker] in Syria based on the calculation that, “The Syrian civil war has been decided — and the victors are Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, as well as Assad.”

A depressing thought, but it aligns with President Trump’s feelings towards Syria last week when he abruptly instructed the military to begin planning for withdrawal from the country against the wishes of his generals. Others argued withdrawal would hand Syria’s oil to Iranand hurt efforts to prevent ISIS 2.0 (which would be even harder to deal with than AOL 2.0). Jeffrey Sachs counters compellingly, arguing that those types of justifications, meant to maintain a U.S. presence in Syria, are exactly at “the crux of the US foreign policy problem.

Maybe so. I like his offhand point that, “It’s time for the US public to understand the Syrian war.” That’s one step in holding Assad accountable. When we oversimplify the conflict, it leads to disengagement and the fleeting nature of these events in our newsfeeds — even the term “civil war” is antiseptic, Sachs says (as do many others). Unless we dig in more, I’m guessing that in a few weeks this attack too will fade from our minds, just like the chemical attack a few years ago that killed 1,400 people [WashPo].

All of this reminds me of a conversation I had with Muhannad, who’s originally from Aleppo, when I asked him what message he would send to Americans. I couldn’t resist bringing up the miracle of two-day shipping.

On Monday, I asked Muhannad what he thinks about the U.S. withdrawing and whether or not the U.S. military should respond with force. He simply said that Syrians don’t want the U.S. to maintain; they want us to act.