It’s hard to believe the west’s leaders are letting this escalate. Have we learned nothing from history?
What on earth are we doing? I have not heard a single expert on Syria explain how dropping missiles on that country will advance the cause of peace or lead its dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to back down. It will merely destroy buildings and probably kill people. It is pure populism, reflected in the hot-and-cold rhetoric of Trump’s increasingly whimsical tweets. Heaven forbid that British policy should now, as it appears, be hanging on their every word.
We can accept that the chemical attack on a Damascus suburb was probably by war-hardened Syrian airmen, though rebellions do kill their own to win sympathy. But Britain too has killed civilians in this theatre. No, we don’t poison our own people, but we somehow claim the right to blow other country’s civilians to bits. Theresa May says that the chemical attack “cannot go unchallenged”, but that is a politician’s love of intransitive verbs. Who is to be the agency and under what authority? The time to punish the Syrian leadership is when the war is over. Outside intervention will make no difference to the conflict, except to postpone its end. That is doubly cruel.