On Thursday, President Donald Trump authorized the United States’ first attack on Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria following a tragic chemical attack. The missiles were launched from two Navy destroyers and targeted multiple airbases.
Following the initial chemical attack, Trump publicly condemned the actions of both Assad and Russia’s alleged assistance. On Thursday evening, or early Friday morning in Syria, the attack was carried out and officially signaled the first direct attack on the Syrian government by the United States.
Responses to Trump’s attack on Syria
The public response to the attack was swift. Many wondered if this signaled deeper involvement from the U.S. in the civil war that’s plagued Syria for the passed six years. However, the decision to carry out this attack was essentially years in the making.
After chemical weapons attributed to the Syrian government killed hundrerds of civilians in 2013, President Barack Obama took action. He forced Assad to turn over all of his chemical weapons and commit to never using them again. Rebel forces contested that Assad didn’t hand over all of his chemical weapon stockpile and the attacks continued. Because of this, the United States’ military had a plan in place to attack Syrian air fields as far back as 2014. They were simply waiting for the go-ahead.
Russia is facing harsh criticism after being tasked with monitoring Assad so that he wouldn’t renege on his part of the deal.
Understanding the bi-partisan calls for an attack on Syria
Choosing to attack Assad’s airfields doesn’t appear to be a partisan issue, either. Just hours before the attack took place, Hillary Clinton spoke at the “Women in the World” summit in New York City, recommending the government take action.
“Assad has an air force, and that air force is the cause of most of these civilian deaths as we have seen over the years and as we saw again in the last few days,” Clinton said, according to CNN. “And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”
US involvement with Syria and ISIS
It should also be noted that many of the headlines concerning the attack are misleading. It’s true that this was the United States’ first airstrike on the Syrian government. But, it’s far from the first in the country.
The U.S. government has worked to remain uninvolved in the Syrian civil war. Yet, it’s been tallying up scores of casualties in its war against ISIS. There was once a time where the conflict with ISIS was mostly contained to Iraq and more rural areas of Syria. The battlefield has moved to more populated placed in recent months, according to Vox.
“The US is moving more into environments that look like conventional warfare, moving up the spectrum from targeting individuals to participating in ongoing conflict, and that’s going to produce more casualties,” said Heather Hurlburt, a policy director at the New American Foundation and a former State department official.
With this change in location comes a higher total of casualties. Many of them are innocent bystander deaths caused during combat and airstrikes that hit many more people than their targets. President Trump has increased the number of soldiers on the ground. This means the military often puts Syrian citizens in even more danger trying to protest US troops.
It’s too early to see what effects this attack will have on the U.S.’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. But one can presume that if Assad continues using chemical weapons, the precedent set yesterday will continue.