For all his flaws, of which there are many, President Trump is undoubtedly the antithesis of trigger shy. In his desperate attempt to earn his stripes as commander-in-chief he’s already made some tough calls; the response to the chemical attack in Syria last week being one of them. Was it the right call? Maybe. But whether or not you agree with the scale and method of the strike on the Shayrat air base, the swift and decisive action must be commended.
The rest of the civilised world reacted with horror yet passivity. Sympathies and outcries abound but any actionable plan seemed far from the agenda. In a supreme show of spinelessness, no other nation was willing to nail their colours to the mast. This despite the scenes of abhorrence and flagrant violation of humanity. Sarin turns our own nervous system against us triggering inconceivable symptoms within seconds. Violent juddering. The mouth drools and vomits. The bowels and bladder evacuate themselves. A vice-like compression grips the chest. Vision blurs. This progresses to convulsions, paralysis and death inside 10 minutes.
Governments are viewed and discussed through the prism of corporeality; as though they are a tangible entity. But governments are made up of people. Human beings with families, thoughts and emotions. How any living person can witness such crimes against mankind and not will something to be done is beyond comprehension.
This may cause some to level allegations of being a ‘bleeding heart liberal’. But if respect for international law is cause for such a claim, then surely we should all be loud and proud ‘BHLs’?
So what are the options? A UN resolution is, sadly, a pipe dream. The Shadow Chancellor said in a recent interview, and I quote, “we must bring Russia on side”. Presumably he’s hoping to bring Elvis back to life as well. Russia have exercised their veto seven times. By hoping, praying, waiting to bring them round to our way of thinking, we are failing the Syrian people with a strategy that is futile, fanciful and fruitless.
A political solution is, of course, the long-term remedy and the path out of this mess. But if we spend too long looking ahead and ignore today’s tragedies there will be no Syria left. Already one in two Syrians are either dead or displaced. What is a country if not it’s people.
This is, of course, all just ‘fabricated lies’ according to Bashar Al-Assad who has once again weaved delusional tales in the wake of an atrocity committed on his people. He presents some interesting alternative facts which are worthy of consideration, but with even a minor probe it becomes clear that most people should, and would, ignore the tall tales being spun. Anyone outside of Moscow, that is. The Kremlin have denied all responsibility, but the attack couldn’t have taken place without the support, or passive acquiescence, of Russia.
And yet we do nothing. We are witnessing events comparable to those of the Nazi regime and while America have taken action, we, the U.K., are trying to put together a strongly worded letter and implement sanctions. Can we really look ourselves in the mirror and feel satisfied that we are doing enough? It’s true that we will never be the global hegemon again, but we still have the capacity to shape the world, rather than be shaped by it.
Trump has reasserted the Western commitment to international humanitarian law and taken a stand against war crimes, demonstrating to the Syrian and Russian administrations that actions bring consequences. It was not a declaration of war against either nation, but rather a demonstration of the importance of international humanitarian principles. Both proportionate and necessary.
All that said, the chemical attack is just the tip of a very bloody, violent iceberg. Can we really say that sarin gas crosses a ‘red line’, but barrel bombs are acceptable?
The international community has been utterly supine in the face of barbarity. Mass murder has ravaged the Syrian people for 5 years. Chemical attacks and barrel bombs are indiscriminate weapons of huge destruction and they continue to this day. A political solution should be aimed for, but more than a heavy dose of pragmatism is needed.
The world must be dealt with how it is, not how we might like it to be. We are a civilisation seeking peace but swimming in chaos.