When I was a kid, both of my parents took the time to teach me how to deal with bullies. And, they shared the same philosophy: never start a fight and walk away if you can. But, never let anyone touch you or shame you. And, if you have to, strike back with conviction. Let them know that you are force to be reckoned with.
I have followed these teachings my entire life and they have served me well. As a young man, I encountered many bullies. I hung out with a pretty tough crowd and any weakness, actual or perceived, was dealt with harshly. You had to be strong to survive. And, I was. No, I was never that tough. But, I was tenacious in defending those principals. I would take a lot of shit. But, at some point, I was just not going to accept it anymore and you'd have to fight me - you might kick my ass, but you weren't going to get away without a tussle. I lost most of those fights (if not all). But, that didn't matter. At some point, the bullying stopped simply because they knew that EVERY TIME they picked on me, they would have a fight on their hands.
With this in mind, I have very mixed feelings about our Country's recent retaliatory attack on Syria. The cause of the retaliation could certainly be seen as a righteous: Forces loyal to Syrian president Bashir Al Assad used deadly nerve gas against their own people, including many women and children. The images of suffering and dying children were enough to fill anyone with horror. They apparently had that effect on President Trump who subsequently ordered the missile strike against the Syrian air base that allegedly launched the attack, claiming that a "red line" had been crossed. The United States was taking direct action in response.
This action has filled me with a great deal of ambivalence. On one hand, there seems to be no doubt that Al Assad is little more that a brutal dictator with little love for his own people. Most of the world, with the exception of Russia and Iran, see him as a monster who needs to be replaced. In other words, he is the consummate bully. And, as I mentioned above, at some point, the only way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose. Our missile attack can be seen as that punch.
However, on the other hand, I have some doubts as to the long term effectiveness of this strategy. As with most of Mr. Trump's decisions, they seem to be made quickly and viscerally. Normally, this can be a recipe for disaster.
First, it has not been COMPLETELY confirmed who exactly perpetrated the attack. It LOOKS like government forces executed the attack. But, we need more than just that. What if another entity accomplished this attack and made it LOOK like the Syrian government did it in order to create an intense, international backlash? This is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Second, why now? Syrians have been dying by the thousands for years - and, by various methods. Sure, nerve gas is particularly egregious and horrifying. But, isn't death from above, ultimately, all the same: death from above - whether it's by a 1,000 bomb or a nerve agent? In the end, the results are the same: dead innocents. Why have we not acted sooner? I'm sure there are many complicated reasons (The President seems to be discovering this about a lot of issues) for our failure to do more. The path to our future involvement in Syria is unclear. One of Mr. Trump's campaign promises was to never get involved there. Now, by his actions, apparently, that policy has changed - or, has it?
Also, I am perplexed by the incongruity of an administration that one week BANS Syrian refugees, including desperate women and children, and in the next strikes their oppressors with vicious conviction. Unfortunately, this seems to be the modus operandi of this President and his administration. Mercurial is his way and we are left to interpret his meaning.
Only time will tell if this was the proper decision made for the right reasons at the correct time.