Muftic: We struck Syria. So, what’s next?
The attack by the United States, the UK and France on Syrian chemical weapons facilities April 13 was a success for what it was. Execution of the mission worked as planned. The United States, UK and France made their point with the strike that most of the world does not approve of the use of chemical weapons and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons again would get a similar response. The well planned and executed strike avoided civilian, Russian or Iranian casualties and spread of the conflict from becoming hotter and wider. So what now?
The ability to shape matters in Syria to benefit U.S. interests is even more dismal than it ever has been and no one in the United States seems to have a plan or a goal farther reaching than just punishing the use of chemical weapons. Pundits and politicians of the April 13 attacks on both sides of the aisle laud the reason, success and limited nature of the attacks, but grouse that the Trump administration has no long-term strategy or goals. They complain he should have run his attack plans by Congress first and he should get a new authorization to use force instead of relying on the post 9/11 one that broadly provided authorizations that did not envision the Syrian civil war.
To say Donald Trump had no policy or plan is not true. He had laid it out in campaign rhetoric and tweets. Some of his plans and policies were suddenly reversed in the past two weeks and dumped in the trash bucket with no discernible replacements in sight. He had read public sentiment right that was a continuation of public reluctance dating back to the Obama era to get involved in the Syrian civil war. He took that a step farther recently and proclaimed Assad had won the civil war. Humanitarian concerns or violations of human rights were not to drive any United States policies. In addition, he slammed the doors on accepting many refugees to the United States. He turned over the conduct of the civil war in the western half of Syria over to the Russians and let the United States and Kurds take the east to drive out ISIS from the territory they had conquered earlier. None of those policies and goals have changed.
What did change was significant. By this early April, Trump’s devotion to isolationism and avoiding multilateral action, a withdrawal of troops from the area he promised his voters two weeks earlier, have been abruptly reversed. He brought the UK and France into the strike and sought and got United Nations disapproval of the use of chemical weapons.
The political left wing of the Democratic party’s plan is to complain the Republicans have no plan. Some on the left condemn use of any force under any circumstance. One cannot bomb their way into peace, they argue, though there are instances in history where it has. What is the alternative to military strikes? Democrats offer no constructive way to end the humanitarian disasters of victims of chemical warfare or refugee problems. To preserve credibility and moral superiority, the left needs to focus on the victims and a solution to the problem by diplomacy, no fly zones, protecting our allies, the Kurds, prosecution of human rights violations, a civilian based strategy to keep terrorist groups like ISIS from retaking the liberated towns if our military presence leaves, and negotiations that may include breaking off parts of Syria.
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