Another gas attack occurred in the Syrian city of Douma on Saturday, April 7. Over forty people were killed after barrels of chlorine and sarin gas were dropped from helicopters onto the rebel stronghold. Around 500 people have sought medical treatment, and the death toll has continued to rise.
This egregious act against innocent civilians has been condemned by the international community. France, Britain, and America are considering military action. In his typical style, President Trump has promised both Russia and the Assad regime that “new and smart missiles will be coming.” Military intervention seems justified in this instance, but there are various problems that will come with it.
No one in the mainstream media is addressing the question of who is actually to blame for this attack. Assad may just be a scapegoat, regardless of how evil he is. In March 2013, a chemical attack killed 16 government soldiers, and the UN Chief Prosecutor claimed Syrian rebels were the most likely culprit given the existing evidence. No conclusive results have been reached in that case or in the Douma attack.
Regardless, the Assad regime has not proven responsible for this most recent incident, rebel groups or foreign actors may have been able to obtain chemical weapons, and false flag attacks have occurred throughout history in order to provide a pretense for military action. A cloud of suspicion hangs over any Western-intervention until the Syrian government is proven culpable.
Assuming Assad is responsible for the sake of argument does not settle the issue either. There is no guarantee intervention would be effective. Let’s not forget that in April of last year, the United States hit the Shayrat Airbase with 59 tomahawk missiles in retaliation for another chemical attack that occurred in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Syrian locals reported that planes were taking off from that same base and carrying out attacks on rebel groups within 24 hours of the strike. The missile strike may have had some symbolic significance, but the message clearly wasn’t strong enough to deter another attack.
If Assad is, in fact, responsible, it’s obvious that an ambitious intervention is required to prevent another attack. This is not something that would be beneficial to the Syrian people or American national security interests. The Russian-backed Syrian Army controls most of the country, and they will not be easily eliminated. It’s incredibly naive to believe that Putin will just relinquish his stronghold in the region. Escalating military intervention in Syria to bolster regime change will embroil two superpowers in an already bloody conflict with potentially catastrophic results.
Of course, America could hypothetically crush the Syrian government without deepening the war. We’ve disposed of dictators before; Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are two obvious examples. In both cases, Iraq and Libya were thrown into even greater chaos after regime change. There is no reason to believe Syria would turn out any differently given the power vacuum it would inevitably create. Military intervention in Syria would only serve to exacerbate the conflict at this point while only being justified on shaky pretenses. It’s not worth doing.