Donald Trump’s response to the death of “beautiful babies” in the latest chemical gas attack in Syria was to kill a few more. At least four children were killed in his missile strike. The British government gave support, calling the US action “appropriate”.
Jeremy Corbyn correctly stated the “horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people.”
Trump’s bombing was illegal both under US and international law. But the media fawned over the airstrikes. Of the top 100 US newspapers, 39 had editorials supporting the attacks, with only one opposed. Here too, liberal commentators - and some Labour and Lib Dem politicians - joined the chorus of approval. One commentator observed: “Trump struck Syria, and the media swooned. Trump will remember that.”
Indeed he did. Like Bush before him, he understands military action abroad is a brilliant distraction from domestic difficulties. Newly emboldened, he dropped a $16m giant bomb on Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Trump’s militarism is a central feature in his construction of a more authoritarian state. He has increased the US defence budget by a colossal $54 bn and authorised hundreds of raids in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, with terrible loss of life. The unfolding crisis over North Korea makes a nuclear conflict more likely now than at any time in the last 50 years.
British policy towards Syria is also mired in hypocrisy. The British government granted export licences to a UK manufacturer five years ago to allow chemicals to be sent to Syria from which nerve gas can be manufactured. Trump, having demanded that Obama do nothing against the Assad regime when it was at its weakest, has now intervened when it appears to be winning its bloody civil war. His policy, insofar as there is one, may be simply to prolong the conflict to prevent the emergence of any power in the region.
Trump’s intervention has done nothing to resolve the Syrian conflict and has increased international tensions with other powers globally. Jeremy Corbyn is right: only negotiations leading to a comprehensive political settlement can resolve this war.