US warning to Assad gets global backing but will resolve little

Morning View
Morning View

International leaders, with the notable exception of Russia, have backed America’s missile strike on a Syrian air base.

The attack was in response to a chemical attack blamed on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

The appalling use of a nerve agent in Syria is said to have killed 87 people, including 31 children.

If anything is a worthy of a humanitarian and combined response, it is an attack such as that. Even Theresa May, who earlier this year outlined a new British policy of being less inclined to get involved in military interventions overseas, strongly backed President Trump’s response.

In the very short term, Mr Trump is made to look more decisive than his predecessor, Barack Obama, who said that use of chemical weapons by President Assad would cross a red line, but then did not respond to their usage.

But this is no day for celebration. The horrendous Syrian conflict still looks intractable. It has led to massive loss of life in the country, and a huge exodus of many of the nation’s brightest and best people. This in turn has led to a refugee crisis in neighbouring border areas and indeed across Europe. Meanwhile, other parts of the Middle East have their own bitter divisions and conflicts.

Mr Trump faces huge challenges, and at times his unpredictability has hardly inspired confidence – lurching in tone between friendliness and aggression, even towards the leaders of countries that are close allies.

He is currently having to formulate a response to an immensely dangerous situation with North Korea.

The massacres in the Balkans and the genocide in Rwanda showed the problems of an isolationist western approach to wars in the 1990s. But Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq showed up problems with an interventionist approach too.

The future will likely be marked by a mixture of the two approaches, deciding each case on its merits. We should pray for wise and good leaders in western democracies.