Twitter Diplomacy and Why We Shouldn’t Bomb Syria



President Trump has declared that there will be consequences for the Syrian government's actions, but what response is appropriate?

Chase Bagnall-Koger, Staff Writer

A suspected chemical attack on Apr. 7 in the rebel-held Syrian city of Douma killed at least 42 people and injured 500 more. The poisonous gas, which targets the respiratory system by causing breathing problems, was released by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government onto citizens of his own country. This act has largely been considered an atrocity by western nations who have condemned the cruelty of the attacks and vowed to take actions to prevent them. On Mar. 9, President Trump received a briefing on the events and discussed his plans to retaliate against the perpetrators of the “terrible atrocities” with the press. He promised a quick decision and decisive military action without going into specific details about possible plans. Two days later, President Trump tweeted that missiles “will be coming” to Syria and Russia, apparently provoked by the Russian government’s promise to shoot down any missiles directed at Syria. While the desire to punish the Syrian government for the violence against their people is valid, the tweet was an alarmist bluff and irresponsible way to deal with the nation’s foreign relations. Furthermore, sending missiles toward Russia and Syria is a bad decision because it harms civilians more than the government and further perpetuates the cycle of violence taking place.

This tweet, threatening both Russia and Syria, was not an adequate response to the chemical attack because it was done in an unprofessional manner. The United States cannot hope to be taken seriously by leaders of other nations if we deliver our foreign policy decisions through social media platforms and use antagonistic language. For example, Trump continued his pattern of using derogatory terms to describe other political leaders when he referred to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as a “gas killing animal.” While the crimes committed by Assad are horrible, this type of language is not conducive to an effective solution. The President of the United States is expected to maintain a certain amount of composure, and a lack of this not only reflects badly on the entire country, but also increases the risk of eliminating diplomacy as an option and escalating the situation by further involving Russia.

“I feel like attacking Syria is really unjustifiable because of the fact that it puts innocent people’s lives at risk,” junior Nidia Volmar said.

The Syrian government has shown through its numerous attacks on its own citizens that it does not care about preserving their lives, so there is no reason to believe that attacking Syrian cities would motivate their government to negotiate with America. Nonetheless, that situation assumes that the missiles would make it to Syria, but Russia has explicitly promised to shoot down any missiles heading toward the nation. Alienating and making an enemy of Russia by ignoring their warnings and now threatening them is the opposite of what Trump has been trying to accomplish since he was elected to office and is not a decision which should be made impulsively.

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Several decades of wartime violence in Syria has destroyed entire cities.

Additionally, this is not the first time the United States has been at odds with Syria. In early 2017, the worst chemical attack in Syrian history took place in Idlib, killing 61 adults and even 11 children. The attack was attributed to Assad, who ignored the repeated warnings by the United States not to use chemical weapons against his own people. America responded with limited strikes to Syrian troops, which was meant to send a message that future use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated without disrupting the ongoing civil war in the region. However, as shown by the recent attacks, that message was not heeded by the Syrian government, likely for two major reasons. Firstly, for Mr. Assad, winning the war is a matter of personal survival and the survival of his country, so limited airstrikes or vague threats of missiles heading toward his nation are not enough to outweigh what he believes to be the benefits of using chemical weapons. Moreover, Syria’s allies, especially Russia, helped them financially to easily absorb the damage caused by the bombings. These reasons are still very applicable to the present-day dilemma, so there is no reason to believe that the same actions taken one year ago would yield different results today.

Prensa Latina                                                     Despite being one of the world’s biggest proponents of bombing Syria, the United States accepted only 11 Syrian refugees in 2017.

Despite the disadvantages, there are those who argue that using military force such as bombs or missiles against Syria is the best option available to the United States. News of the chemical attack has spread rapidly throughout the world, accompanied by heartbreaking pictures of the victims. This has sparked an international outrage and collective desire to punish everyone responsible. Some Americans demand that our nation attack Syria in retribution for their crimes, seeing it as the only way to prevent them for reoccurring. ‘An eye for an eye’ is a philosophy that many apply to this situation, reasoning that the only way to make the Syrian government pay for taking the lives of their citizens is to attack their lives.

“I think that bombing Syria sends an important message to all countries that you should not use chemical weapons against any civilians,” CGHS teacher Lauren Noval said.

However, as shown by the United States’ attacks on Syria in 2017, this will not work. Although it is the general consensus among Congress and the American population that complacency in the face of such evil is no longer acceptable, this situation should be resolved using other methods. For example, one method which was employed during the Obama Administration is the act of making the ongoing civil war as costly as possible for the Syrian government (by arming anti-government rebel groups, restricting access to supplies, etc.) in order to pressure them into standing down. Another more drastic measure would be to declare that the United States no longer recognizes Mr. Assad as an international leader because of his crimes against humanity and to demand that he is reported to the International Court of Justice within a certain time period or face assassination.

Though it is important to not let the crimes of the Syrian government go unnoticed, the tweet issued by President Trump was not a good choice. In order to maintain strong international relations and protect the interests of both America and the Syrian people, the White House should carefully review its alternative options for dealing with the situation.

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