Friday, April 7, 2017

"The U.S. Air Strike On Syria: First Thoughts," The New Yorker

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The U.S. Air Strike On Syria: First Thoughts

The New Yorker

Excerpt: Assad’s brutality has been obvious for years. It was obvious in the summer of 2013, when President Obama considered a military strike in response to an earlier chemical-weapons attack by Syrian government forces. On that occasion, Trump, then a private citizen, urged caution, writing on Twitter, “The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!” A week, later, again on Twitter, Trump warned, “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!” Assad’s disregard for human life was in evidence again late last year, when his forces surrounded and bombed eastern Aleppo, killing and injuring a large numbers of civilians who were trapped in the city. That bloodshed didn’t prompt any eagerness to oust Assad on Trump’s part: to the contrary.

Only last week, senior Administration officials indicated that they were willing to see the Syrian leader remain in power indefinitely. “With respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept. The United States has profound priorities in Syria and Iraq, and we’ve made it clear that counterterrorism, particularly the defeat of isis, is foremost among those priorities,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said, echoing statements made by both Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and Nikki Haley, the Ambassador to the United Nations.

Evidently, these “profound priorities” have changed, but why? Which of Trump’s foreign-policy advisers pushed him to take military action? Were any other options considered? What is the Trump Administration’s strategy on Syria going forward, and has it now endorsed regime change? What are the consequences for the war on isis, and for the military offensive against Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the terrorist group’s stronghold? And will Trump help alleviate the refugee crisis, which he referred to in his statement on Thursday, by admitting more displaced Syrians to the United States?

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