President Trump ordered airstrikes against Syrian airfields after claiming that Assad′s military was responsible for sarin gas attacks against civilian targets. Even if Assad gave the order, compassion for Syrian civilians is a poor reason to bomb Syria. The only time the US should use military force is to protect the US or to protect an ally.
Often in spite of the President′s best intentions and the military′s best efforts, bad things happen with our missiles. Targets are often chosen based on faulty intel and missiles stray off course because of faulty guidance systems. Even though the Russians were told in advance of the missile strikes, and even though the Russians probably warned Assad′s men of the attack, at least seven people died as a result of the strikes. Future attacks will likely yield even more fatalities.
To be sure, Assad is a monster. Even during peacetime, his government has been arresting people without any charges. Thousands have died while in custody. Meanwhile, the rebels who oppose Assad have persecuted Christians, openly practiced cannibalism, and fought each other. There are no good guys in the Syrian civil war, only innocents caught in the crossfire.
There are other ways to help the victims of this horrible civil war. There have been efforts to resettle civilians outside of Syria. This plan has come under fire as costly and with a risk of increasing terrorism. But war is even more expensive than immigration and is capable of creating new terrorists. If you don′t feel safe allowing refugees to settle in your city, you won′t feel safe ten years from now when the brother of a Tomahawk missile victim sneaks into New Jersey inside a cargo container.
Let′s phrase this another way. Those missiles cost about $1.4 million each. For the cost of those missiles, we could have built over 300 brand new homes and resettled over 1,500 people out of harm′s way. The US could conceivably save hundreds of people who are still alive for what it cost to avenge people who are already dead.
And yet Trump made a promise during his 2016 campaign that he would not allow any more refugees to settle here. If he refuses to go back on that promise, then the next best thing he can do for Syrian civilians is to incentivize other countries into hosting them. This would likely mean paying these countries. If Trump is so worried about Syrian children, why not just build orphanages with money out of his own pocket?
The third best option is to simply walk away from the mess. Trump can have a relatively easy exit strategy here. He can credibly claim that Assad has been deterred once and for all from using chemical weapons. He can declare ″Mission Accomplished″ and remove the US soldiers that we have in Syria. Or Congress can refuse to authorize any further military action, and Trump can act like his hands are tied.
People tend to hate the idea of doing nothing, but sometimes there are no better options. Doing nothing will save billions of dollars and possibly thousands of lives. Doing nothing absolves us of any moral responsibility for anything else that goes wrong. Advocates of various courses of action must bear the burden of proof that their way is better than doing nothing. Arguably, the Middle East would be better off if the US had no intentions there instead of good intentions.