Refreshingly balanced article from USA Today

Donald Trump is reckless on Syria. It's his most dangerous foreign policy folly.

James Bovard, Opinion columnist 3:15 a.m. ET June 26, 2017

Trump said Obama's 'horrendous leadership' on Syria could start World War III. He's made things even worse.

Last year on the campaign trail, crowds roared when Donald Trump denounced his opponent as "trigger-happy" Hillary. But President Trump is rapidly incarnating the vice he condemned. Nowhere is this more evident than in Syria, where Trump’s recklessness risks dragging America into a major war.

U.S. policy toward Syria has been a tangle of absurdities since 2012. President Obama promised 16 times that he would never put U.S. "boots on the ground" in the four-sided Syrian civil war. He quietly abandoned that pledge and, starting in 2014, launched more more than 5,000 airstrikes that dropped more than 15,000 bombs on terrorist groups in Syria.

Four years ago, Trump warned in a tweet: "If the U.S. attacks Syria and hits the wrong targets, killing civilians, there will be worldwide hell to pay." But the Trump administration has sharply increased U.S. bombing while curtailing restrictions that sought to protect innocents. A British-based human rights monitoring group estimated Friday that U.S.-led coalition strikes had killed almost 500 civilians in the past month — more than any month since U.S. bombing began. A United Nations commission of inquiry concluded that coalition airstrikes have caused a "staggering loss of civilian life."

The carnage is sufficiently embarrassing that "the Pentagon will no longer acknowledge when its own aircraft are responsible for civilian casualty incidents," Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations recently noted.

U.S.-led forces are reportedly bombarding the besieged city of Raqqa with white phosphorous, a munition that burns intensely and is prohibited by international law from use against civilians. Deploying white phosphorous to attack Raqqa could be a war crime, Amnesty International warns.

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The biggest delusion driving U.S. policy is the quest for viable "moderate rebels" — which apparently means groups who oppose Assad but refrain from making grisly videos of beheadings. America has spent billions aiding and training Syrian forces who either quickly collapsed on the battlefield or teamed up with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or al-Qaeda-linked forces. Policy is so muddled that Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels have openly battled CIA-backed rebels.

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The Syrian government has never threatened the United States, and Congress has not approved attacking it. White House spokesman Sean Spicer justified Trump’s cruise missile attack because "when it’s in the national interest of the country, the president has the full authority to act." But this is a recipe for unlimited power — warring limited solely by self-serving presidential proclamations.


Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., condemned Trump’s attacks on Syrian government forces as "unconstitutional" and a "completely unlawful use of power." Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., concurs: "This is illegal war at this point."


Killing vast numbers of innocent civilians sows the seeds of future terrorist attacks on America. There are no good options for continuing U.S. intervention in Syria. The only question is whether Trump’s blundering will turn that war into a catastrophe for Americans as well as Syrians. As Trump tweeted about Obama’s Syria policy in 2013: "Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III."


https://www.usatoday.com/story/opini...umn/426924001/