On Thursday, the U.S. launched 59 tomahawk missiles from the decks of two destroyers parked off the coast of Syria. Their target was the Shayrat airbase, the base from which Syrian planes carrying sarin gas — the chemical weapon used to kill dozens of Syrian civilians early last week — took off.
That chemical attack, the deadliest since the 2013 attack on Ghouta where 1,400 died, formed the impetus for President Donald J. Trump’s first major military action. More than that, it forms a major reversal of policy on Syria at a time when just a week ago Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that regime change (read: dealing at all with Syrian president and dictator Bashar al Assad) was not a priority.
In the days since the attack, concern from Americans at home over possible ramifications, such as the retaliation of Russia or Iran, which both back the Assad regime, have largely quelled. Even so, there’s been at least some anecdotal evidence that a non-zero number of students at this very university were perhaps overly worried, to the point of tears.
If you are still worried, know this: be concerned for those who’ve endured six long years of civil war with no end in sight, but don’t be afraid. The odds that Russia or Iran actually retaliate against the U.S. mainland for aggression in the middle east is low, especially considering the amount of poking and prodding the U.S. has leveled at its historic adversaries in the past.
This is obviously speculation, and deserves to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s not productive to assume that any level of provocation in the region is somehow grounds for World War III. Let’s not forget that Syria is complicated and even calling it a quagmire is an exercise in understatement. Not only must the U.S. contemplate the long-term effects of regime change on the region, but there’s still the matter of ISIS and the refugee crisis to contend with at any given moment.
There’s also the matter that there is a certain business-as-usual feel to the whole ordeal because of the very much-ado-about-nothing aftermath. The missile strike was a shot across the bow that saw wide-ranging bipartisan support in Congress, and saw little more than posturing from America’s foes in the region.
Ultimately, all these problems are tough nuts to crack, and taken as a whole, it’s why the Syrian war continues to this day after it sparked during 2011’s Arab Spring. There will be no easy way to end this war, but even so, that shouldn’t be a reason to be afraid of what could happen. Instead, be concerned with what is happening, be it chemical attacks or the refugee crisis.
They all deserve our attention.