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Trump Can Only Make the Syrian Disaster Worse

April 16, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Syria awaits President Donald Trump’s decision whether to
retaliate against the Assad government for its apparent use of
chemical weapons. Doing so would result in little gain while
risking a wider war. Instead, the president should follow his
initial instinct to withdraw U.S. forces from the war-ravaged
nation.

Just days ago, President Trump displayed a common sense that is
often lacking in Washington, recognizing that the United States
should come home rather than illegally occupying nearly a third of
Syria and confronting the Syrian, Iranian and Russian governments.
Then his instincts deserted him when he threatened war against the
Damascus government.

His professed humanitarian concern may be genuine, but his
administration has spent a year supporting Saudi airstrikes that
have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. Moreover, chemical
weapons are not really mass destroyers. Bombs and bullets have the
same ultimate result, having killed most of the half million
Syrians who have died over the last seven years.

In recent years the
United States has been the most destructive, destabilizing force in
the Middle East.

The president’s delay in acting likely reflects Washington’s
lack of an effective response. Yet his hesitation allowed the sense
of international outrage to diminish while giving Damascus time to
prepare for U.S. strikes—hiding some military assets and
moving others closer to Russian forces. Moscow, too, has had ample
time to decide on its strategy.

Most everyone acknowledges that a one-off attack would have
limited if any deterrent effect. But massive retaliation would be
even worse. For instance, Firas Maksad of the Arabia Foundation has
advocated “a comprehensive bombing
campaign, perhaps sustained over a number of days, targeting
command and control centers and elite military units to knock out
Assad’s entire air force.” Yet strikes significant
enough to do serious damage would force Damascus to rely more
heavily on Iran and Russia. Reinvigorating the civil war would not
likely change the ultimate result, while guaranteeing more
casualties, suffering, refugees and chaos.

More important for America, any military attack risks triggering
a more general war. If the Trump administration followed
Maksad’s advice, Moscow could not easily remain supine.
Indeed, even the president’s ill-considered taunts make it
difficult for the Putin government to stand aside. Russia can ill
afford to play the patsy, bullied by Washington.

The more widespread any U.S. attacks, the more likely
“collateral damage” involving Russian and Iranian
military personnel. Scores of Russian mercenaries reportedly were
killed by American forces when attacking Kurdish fighters in
February. Last year the United States downed a Syrian plane
attacking U.S.-backed forces. In these cases Moscow was not
directly involved and did not retaliate, but this time it might
exercise less forbearance.

Russia’s foreign ministry …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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