While doomsday predictions have proven to be far too pessimistic, the recent strikes in Syria show that a US withdrawal isn’t happening any time soon. The strikes were limited in scope and effectiveness, meaning that the immediate ramifications are only minor. However, lobbing over 100 missiles at a sovereign nation is not something to merely shrug off—the strike represents a marked increase of Western involvement in a volatile regional conflict that has the potential to spiral out of control.
The war-mongering elite have shown that they are completely brazen and have no problem pushing for war again and again regardless of a reasonable casus belli. Every time Trump gives in to them, they grow bolder. A dangerous precedent has been set. Anti-Assad actors (Islamists and Israelis) know that unconfirmed stories of chemical weapons attacks will get Trump to launch missiles on their behalf. At a time when the US should be deescalating and withdrawing from the Middle East, it is reaffirming its status as the protector of Israel and Sunni Islamists.
And they’re not going to stop there. Each time Trump will be asked to do more, as the previous action, they will claim, did nothing to thwart the gas-killing animal Assad. They will also attempt to broaden the pretext for US strikes. Immediately after the strikes, the mainstream media began to question why the US only intervenes after chemical attacks and not conventional attacks. After all, women and children are dying from bombs and bullets too. While it is true that it is arbitrary to draw a distinction between chemical and non-chemical attacks, the people making this argument are the same ones who argued that there should be a response to Assad’s supposed use of chemical weapons last year. The fact is, the chemical weapons argument was just a pretext for getting their foot in the door; these people want regime change and will use any excuse to get it.
The danger doesn’t stop there. The many powerful actors in the conflict make it unpredictable and mean that a wider war could be sparked. New National Security Adviser John Bolton and many others who have the President’s ear seek to not only become more involved in Syria, but to provoke a war with Iran, one of the two biggest supporters of Assad. Trump himself has used hawkish rhetoric toward Iran, and this latest action is just another step in that direction.
The strike also drew a reaction from Russia, the world’s second most powerful military. This is just the latest in a long line of provocations toward Russia. Though the entire establishment seems to be rooting for it, a hot conflict with Russia would be a catastrophe. Though it has exercised patience thus far, one wonders how much more Russia can take before it resorts to serious retaliatory action. The Russian embassy to the US escalated its rhetoric after the attack, saying in a statement, “Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissble. The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries.” Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences.”
But the danger in Syria goes far beyond the recent actions of the US. The strike was actually done by a coalition including France and Britain. Though their military contribution was not significant, their political support for strikes shows a broader desire in the West for the war in Syria to continue. This will be significant in the event of a serious consideration of a larger ground war.
The most dangerous actor in the conflict, however, is Israel. Israel and Jewish lobbying are the primary reasons for US participation in the Syrian conflict. Every other justification is just noise to distract from the fact that American actions in this conflict, and the entirety of US foreign policy in the Middle East, is dictated by a nation that is constantly warring with its neighbors.
A chaotic Syria or one without Assad are ideal for Israel as it seeks to spread its borders and reduce Iranian allies and influence. Iran, for its part, has been aggressively expanding influence to the west and now has a large military presence in Syria, Iraq, and many other places in the region. Iranian forces near the Israel-Syria border have recently become involved in several confrontations with the Israelis. The countries have engaged in small-scale conflict, including an Israeli missile attack which killed seven Iranian Quds soldiers two weeks ago. Already unhappy with the trajectory of the war, Israel now has its biggest enemy emboldened and on its doorstep. With the two biggest military powers in the world backing each side of this conflict, the consequences of escalation could be massive.
Trump’s Syria strikes aren’t that dangerous in isolation. However, when taking a long-term view, they represent millions more in sunken resources and the potential to get sucked into another long, large-scale ground conflict in the Middle East—or worse. The war fears have died down for now, but the future is uncertain at best because America’s foreign policy is currently dictated by foreign interest groups and the unpredictable actions of other nations.