White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at an off-camera briefing on Tuesday that the devastating Syrian chemical attack that claimed at least 100 lives was a “consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
The statement was undoubtedly a reference to Obama’s infamous “red line” from 2012, where the former president vowed to take action against the Assad regime if the dictator used chemical weapons against rebel fighters. Assad later used just such weapons, and Obama failed to live up to his empty threat.
In the years since, the Syrian civil war has grown in both size and scale. When you consider the refugee crisis, the touchy situation with Russia, and the continued rise of the Islamic State, you’re looking at a scenario that could turn into a global powder keg at any moment.
While the Trump administration is calling the attack “reprehensible” and holding the Assad government responsible, Spicer said Tuesday that there was still no reasonable path forward when it came to regime change. And that’s probably for the best.
If Assad were to fall, after all, it would only invite the radical terrorists who want to control the country to expand their so-called caliphate. Whether those terrorists are called ISIS or al Qaeda or the Free Syrian Rebel Alliance, what difference does it make? How many American lives would we give up just to replace one form of evil with another? We’ve done quite enough of that in recent decades.
This was a terrible tragedy that calls for international condemnation, but we have to be cautious about letting that condemnation turn into intervention. We’ve got enough on our plate as it is, and a war against Syria could very quickly turn into a war against Russia. If President Trump can divide Putin from Iran, maybe the situation begins to change. But right now, we have to look at the broader consequences of going in half-cocked.
Aside from the viewpoint of “what should we do,” though, it’s worth taking time out to absorb just how disgusting this chlorine gas attack was. Eyewitnesses have said the effects of the gas were unspeakable. Children were among the many who were killed or injured. This was a sick piece of business, and we should not ever forget what kind of brutal individual would authorize it. Assad may not be in our crosshairs just yet, but he can never become an ally.