In the pre-dawn hours of Friday April 7, the United States launched 59 missiles at a military airport in Syria. The attack was condemned by somepeople, like Republican representative Justin Amash of Michigan, and widely condemned both at home and abroad.
This missile strike was a direct response to the poisoned gas attack on Syrian people on April 4, which killed dozens of civilians.
The perpetrator of the initial chemical attack is yet to be confirmed, though the U.S. speculates it was the work of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military.
Syria has been host to a brutal civil war spanning the last six years, during which a rebel anti-Assad group first armed themselves against the unchecked militarized political faction. The group later conflated with Islamic State terrorist groups, resulting in years of endless violence, mutilation and displacement propagated by extremists, regime-loyal forces and anti-government rebels.
In an article published by the Fars news agency that harshly criticizes the U.S.’s actions, Iran's leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei states, "What Americans did was a strategic mistake, and they are repeating the same mistake done by their predecessors."
Tracing America's relation to the conflict in Syria renders a muddy picture. The “Arab Spring" showed the world how grassroots uprisings of rebel factions proved successful in recent years in toppling oppressive regimes.
For example, failed uprisings against democratically elected—though still oppressive—governments occurred in Turkey, suggesting that civil conflict in the Middle East is still a more complicated web than the U.S. acknowledges or understands.
This missile strike was ordered directly by President Donald Trump and was executed without approval by Congress. This makes the attacks in violation of constitutional checks and balances, and serves as a hint of the direction that the new commander-in-chief will take in addressing conflict abroad.
Americans hopeful for a hint of tactical forethought or considered intentionality regarding this military action will be disappointed for now it seems.
For an administration that has already pledged to slash funding to programs—which would provide relief to the war-torn country—an intense military retaliation against Syria seems to be a statement of power that reminds armed regimes that unchecked use of force will not go unchecked by the U.S. for long.
Of course, the irony should be clear when such a retaliation is performed with absolutely no hesitation or deliberation by our country's own democratic process.
There are other, less violent ways in which the U.S. could provide aid to the Syrian people caught in the crossfire between the government and the extremist-influenced rebel factions. Work to ensure safe zones, travel passages for relief workers and the protection of hospitals is vital.
Unfortunately, whether it leads to a legitimate declaration of war by the U.S. or Syria, the Friday April 7 attacks are a sad indication of where our country's foreign policy is at now: in the hands of a reactionary, militarily inexperienced demagogue.
Americans who voted for Trump because he promised to not get the U.S. involved in conflict should take note: more money is spent on our country's military than anything else, making our expenditures on non-militant relief and humanitarian work small change for a country with our outsized influence and resources.
As many protestors of Friday April 7's attack have said, the fighting in Syria and throughout the Middle East will continue. Here's to hoping the U.S. starts to consider more solutions other than war.