Don’t Let History Repeat Itself in the Middle East

CNN

The march to war has begun.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but that’s the conclusion I’ve come to after recent events that have taken place in the Middle East. On April 4, the world was confronted with images of men, women, and young children suffering from the worst chemical gas attack executed in Syria in years, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds of others. According to The New York Times, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the attacks were carried out by the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting a civil war in the country against rebel insurgents for the past six years.

Normally, an attack taking place in the destabilized region doesn’t signal a call for war from the U.S. But Donald Trump’s response to the crisis gives me a feeling of uncertainty on where we go from here. To understand why these latest moves are detrimental, it’s important to reflect on a similar situation from our nation’s past.

In 2002, the Bush Administration was pressuring Congress and the American public to get behind an invasion of Iraq. According to their intelligence at the time, President Saddam Hussein was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction, or WMD’s. In addition to these accusations, the administration claimed it wished to “liberate Iraq” from a ruthless dictator who was known for killing his own civilians. Even with no evidence for the WMD claims, the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of 2003.

Though it was promised to be over and done with in a matter of weeks, the war continued for eight brutal years, costing our country almost 4,000 lives and $2 trillion, according to Reuters. It can also be argued that the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan severely destabilized the region. In a number of ways, what happened then is a mirror of what is taking place right now.

Back in 2012, then President Barack Obama clearly outlined a “red line” on the Assad regime, claiming that if they used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, U.S. military action would be warranted. A year later, in 2013, Assad launched a chemical attack that killed nearly 1,500 civilians. But instead of taking action like he had warned, the Obama administration chose negotiation. A few weeks later, a deal was made for the peaceful removal of all Syrian chemical weapons, according to Politico. Following this, Obama continued to supply rebels fighting the Assad regime with arms in hope that they could take the regime out of power themselves. Whether this decision by the administration was a mistake or a failure is up for debate, but the conflict has continued on for years with no clear solution in sight.

And now, we arrive at Donald Trump. After tweeting in 2013 that he was against military intervention in Syria, he has apparently had a change of heart on the subject. On April 6, just two days after the chemical attacks, Trump authorized the launch of over 50 cruise missiles on a Syrian military base in response. Even though this strike was justified, as Assad clearly reneged on his deal to get rid of all chemical weapons, it starts the U.S. down a path we should not go again. Ignoring the consequences of mistakes made in 2002, our current president seems eager to depose a ruthless dictator who has been killing his country’s own civilians. A few congressmen have already offered their support, should Trump ask Congress for Authorized Unilateral Military Force. Though this is not a declaration of war, it’s the first step towards more intervention in Syria.

It’s time for Trump to do something he doesn’t do often: use his head. The U.S. needs to be cautious about getting involved in another war so that the past is not repeated. The last time we got involved in something we shouldn’t have, we destabilized an entire region, and terror organizations, like the Islamic State, grew as a result. Too many lives are at stake for Trump to do something irrational in the coming weeks and months. Should we continue moving toward more involvement, we’ll not only be fighting a dictator’s regime, but we will have to deal with the Russians and ISIS, as both are currently involved in Syria. Ending up in another Iraq-type situation means more lives lost, more towns destroyed, and more enemies to fight later on. Maybe President Trump should just listen to his own advice. As he wrote so brilliantly in a 2013 tweet, “AGAIN TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA- IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN [AND] FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!”