The U.S. is no stranger to regime changes. In fact, we have been a part of many, many attempted, and also successful, regime changes throughout the years. We simply cannot resist at least trying to westernize the entire world through either direct military action, by providing supplies and funds to another military, applying political pressure and even supporting terrorist organizations when the time is right.
According to the Centre for Research on Globalization, the U.S. has been apart of 56 successful or attempted regime changes of another government. For the sake of this article, I will focus on our unsuccessful attempts to overthrow another’s regime. In the most recent examples of this — and by “recent” I mean in the last 35 years — we have unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow three governments.
These attempts have been made in Iraq in 1991, Somalia both in 1993 and again in 2007 and Syria since 2012. What bothers me about all of these cases in general is that we are wasting on our money, resources and troops to solve another country’s problems. I understand other countries need assistance at times, but it seems to me, and Stuart Gottlieb, a professor of international affairs at Columbia University, that the U.S. loves playing the global police officer when we could be using that defense spending on programs to help our own people.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a disaster and were built upon flawed intelligence, regardless of whether we were successful in changing the regime, which we were. Former President George W. Bush and his administration insisted there were weapons of mass destruction located in Iraq to gain support for the war, and when we found none, it was still suggested that Sadam Hussein had moved them. They never existed, but still, according to Politifact, we spent nearly $5 trillion to invade and help, essentially, destroy the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, the U.S. is apparently facing a new dilemma over whether or not to get more involved in the conflict occurring in Syria. We have been involved, more so than I would have liked under the Obama administration, by sending drones and conducting air strikes on groups like the Islamic State in Syria. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, we also — by way of the CIA and the Pentagon — have spent money on programs in an attempt to train rebels in Syria to fight President Assad’s regime.
The Syrian conflict is messy, and there are many actors playing a part. My biggest concern, however, is the fact that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, are backing Syria and its leader Bashar al-Assad, and we just shot missiles straight into one of Assad’s airstrike bases.
Yes, the images of children being chemically gassed were horrific. Yes, the United Nations said the Syrian civil war is one big humanitarian conflict. Of course we can play some sort of role to help, such as developing a strategy for Syria once it is no longer under Assad’s regime and taking in refugees fleeing this country and the surrounding areas. These options would arguably be much more helpful than shooting 59 expensive Tomahawk missiles, as President Donald Trump just ordered, into a country that was just bombed by its own ruler.
I would like to point out something else that makes this missile strike an even worse decision by Trump and his administration. Just weeks ago, he was fighting with courts to ban refugees from this country and other majority Muslim countries. Now he wants to send missiles because he is so appalled by men, women and children being gassed? This is nothing new. This conflict in Syria has been going on for years, and to act so rashly was incredibly expensive, wasteful and damaging to the already tense relationship the U.S. has with Russia.
The hypocrisy here is astounding. Trump urged former President Barack Obama on Twitter in 2013 to get congressional approval before involving us in the conflict in Syria. Apparently these views do not apply to him, considering he will have spent approximately $60 million without the approval of Congress to send over and replace the 59 Tomahawk missiles.
After all of that money spent and putting the U.S. in a shaky position, there is already evidence, reported by ABC News, that the bases struck by the missiles are up and running again. What an effective use of $60 million. War, or shooting missiles into an already hostile environment, is not the answer to the Syrian conflict. Right now Syria, specifically refugees fleeing, need help and they need open arms, but President Trump attempted to block all Syrian refugees until further notice just weeks ago via an executive order.
I have no idea what the solution to the problem in Syria is, but what is scary is that neither does our president. With so many actors and complications within one conflict, it becomes nearly impossible for us to focus on any one objective. What we need here is careful research, consideration and true humanitarianism, not more war.
Moreover, we do not need to give Russia any more of a reason to go to war with the U.S. And according to NPR, that could happen even by a military accident or diplomatic misunderstanding. With Putin backing Assad, it is in our best interest to stay out of conflict. The U.S. loves being every other country’s savior, but I think I am going to have to take a stance and state that I do not believe our troops; missiles or other acts of war belong in Syria.
While I do not support nationalist rhetoric, I will say that we have plenty of our own problems here the U.S. to work on without spending an outrageous amount of money on another country’s regime change. We are appalled by the chemical attacks on Syrian civilians, but what about the poisoning of the people in Flint, Michigan? Where is the outrage for the communities of color who, as detailed by Mahmood Mamdani in his book “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim,” had crack cocaine placed within their homes during Ronald Reagan’s presidency? These are examples of chemical warfare with just a different context.
If we are not willing to work on our own problems, we should not be planning another regime change in a different country. One thing I thought I could count on Trump to do was to continue his nationalistic plans of not involving the U.S. in other countries’ problems. I guess he had me fooled. For the sake of our country’s finances at least, we need to look at this problem more closely, take our time, and take appropriate action. No more missiles. No more hasty action. It has not helped us in the past, and it will not help us in the future.
Originally written by Courtney Dalton for the Western Courier.