Andrew McCarthy on Syria

Andrew McCarthy has a good NR column about why the Syrian strike was a bad idea. (Hat tip: Punk):

The U.S. has no vital national interest in joining its civil war.

President Donald Trump has now done what candidate Donald Trump committed not to do: He has launched a military strike against a foreign regime — a repulsive one, to be sure — in the absence of any threat, much less any attack, against the United States, in furtherance of no vital American interests. Trump’s act of war is in violation of the Constitution, which requires congressional authorization for such an offensive use of military force, provoked by no aggression against our nation. Or, as someone once said:

Mind you, that’s just one in a series of “Syria is NOT our problem” tweets in which Trump ripped Obama for not recognizing that “the so called ‘rebels’ may be just as bad (or worse)!”…

In any event, count me out of the virtue-preening that obsesses over the type of monstrous weapons employed when the issue is the monster using the weapons — of any kind. Both Assad and his opposition jihadists regularly commit atrocious war crimes targeting civilians. It is not beneath Assad, his enablers, or his enemies — al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their fellow militant Islamists, all of whom seek and would use weapons of mass destruction — to enter a village and firebomb or shoot up several dozen civilians (including women, children, and “beautiful babies”) with conventional arms. That is a commonplace, and it is horrifyingly typical of internecine Muslim conflicts, which are happening throughout the region.

The barbarism characteristic of Syria’s years-long civil war is not materially different because chemical weapons have been used, or because President Trump is now inflamed by the graphic images of death and destruction he has seen in government and media reports.

For those of us who have argued for years against Syrian intervention… the situation has not changed. There is no American interest is deposing Assad if he would be replaced by (a) a Sunni sharia-supremacist regime that is more likely than Assad to make Syria a platform for jihadist attacks against our homeland and interests or (b) a Libyan-style failed state that has the same effect. To prevent that would entail a resource-intensive, open-ended commitment of U.S. forces for which the public has no appetite and the cost of which, in the absence of vital American interests, is prohibitive.

Moreover, the principal American enemy pulling Assad’s strings is Iran — now empowered by eight years of Obama’s appeasement and emboldened by an alliance with Putin. Until we have a strategy for both vanquishing the Sunni jihadists and choking the regime in Tehran (which supports the jihadists against us when it is not fighting them on behalf of Assad), attacking the Syrian regime is pointless. In fact, it may be worse than pointless. Trump has been telling Americans for over a year that our myopic focus in Syria should be ISIS. He has been wrong about this (Iran aside, al-Qaeda has extended its influence while ISIS grabs the headlines); but at least it was a strategy based on the reality that ISIS, more than Assad, posed a significant threat to attack the U.S. and our allies. Accordingly, accommodations had been made with Russia — particularly in sharing air space — in order to promote U.S.-led coalition attacks against ISIS. Last night’s missile strike against the Syrian air base puts an end to those accommodations. Is the Assad attack worth it if it makes the ISIS campaign more difficult?

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