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“Mission Accomplished” in Syria - Not so Fast

Monday, April 16, 2018


Last Friday, April 13th, 2018, President Donald Trump ordered strikes on military targets across Syria in response to the gas attacks in the Syrian city of Douma. Even though the strikes were considered a success, Mr. Trump seemed to make a verbal slip of the tongue of epic proportions when he said, “Mission accomplished.” 

As soon as he made this statement, I almost had a flashback to President George Bush on that aircraft carrier with the 'Mission Accomplished' banner behind him referring to the Iraq War. This was, of course, just before the realization that the United States would be bogged down in Iraq for years to come.

Iraq consumed my life as well. I was a member of the Army brigade that spearheaded the surge in Iraq; I was deployed there for years serving with heroes and patriots, but while at the time I was dripping with nationalism, I was also disgusted and upset with the loss of life; this wasn't a game. We lost many fine men and women to a war that we were uncertain about, and that didn’t seem to have any clear objectives.

In Syria, it is a similar situation, but with a much lighter footprint. The mission is certainly not yet accomplished – despite Mr. Trump’s gaffe. While semantics come into play here, the United States is simply not yet finished with Syria so long as the genocidal strongman Bashir al-Assad remains in power. Even the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” if the Assad regime tries anything like this again.

Mr. Assad resorted to the use chemical weapon of chlorine gas to oppress the people of his country (some speculate he may have also used some of the chemical weapons he allegedly forfeited). This toxic was so destructive that it was banned by the international community for use as a weapon of war. These are the actions of desperate actions of a regime that is simply unfit to remain in power.

‘What should we do about Syria?’ is a question few -- if any -- will have an answer. As a service member and citizen, I don’t want to put any more of my military brothers and sisters in harm’s way. As a taxpayer, I am concerned about the billions of dollars being sent overseas while we have crumbling roads, and bridges here at home.

However, as a human being, I am concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of both the government and the terrorist groups there. The innocent men, women, and children gasping for air should be difficult to watch for anyone on social media.

No one should face such suffering, but as an Americans, we have a stark choice to make over Syria: stay or go. If you think the answer is to stay, expect to see more of our heroes die, and a gamble of, yet again, being bogged down in a war without end. If you think we should ‘go,” you might want to watch the video of the innocent people suffering in Douma – again if you haven’t already watched it.

No one should hope for war, but sometimes, war a necessary evil to keep monsters like Mr. Assad and the Islamic State terror group at bay. Despite what Mr. Trump says, the mission is far, far from accomplished.

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an Iraq War veteran.


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