Editorial: Syria Crisis Comes amid Looming Superpower Confrontations. Let Cooler Heads Prevail

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Editorial: Syria Crisis Comes amid Looming Superpower Confrontations. Let Cooler Heads Prevail


One hundred years ago on Thursday, the United States entered the first world war, a bloodbath prompted by unchecked global instability and a series of flashpoint events that leaders allowed to spiral out of control. Today, the world sits at a similar precipice. Americans should keep the historical precedents in mind while evaluating Thursday night's U.S. cruise-missile attack on Syria's Shayrat air base.

President Donald Trump was correct to order the bombing. Syrian President Bashar Assad has flaunted international law, including the use of chemical weapons against his own people. Minimal consequences resulted from an earlier chemical attack in 2013. Then-President Barack Obama only succeeded in emboldening Assad with his tepid response.

But Trump's administration further emboldened Assad last week by suggesting that the dictator was here to stay and that his fate was up to the Syrian people to decide. Assad's chemical attack quickly followed. He should never have been allowed to feel safe, much less escape severe consequences in 2013.

Today's situation is far more complicated. Russian-supplied warplanes, including the ones that launched last week's chemical attack, were based at Shayrat. Senior U.S. officials say there are signs of potential Russian complicity in the attack. Russia accused Washington of a "flagrant violation" of international law and withdrew from an information-sharing agreement with Washington designed to avoid inadvertent clashes between the two countries' forces in Syria.

Tension was already high because of Russian attempts to manipulate the Nov. …

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