Europe: Joining the U.S. to strike Syria
The West had to take a stand, said Le Monde (France) in an editorial. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed a red line once again this month by blasting his own people with chemical weapons, killing dozens—many of them children—in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma. The U.S., U.K., and France had no choice but to hit back, smashing the dictator’s chemical-weapons facilities with airstrikes and Tomahawk missiles. The three allies are “all too conscious of the disastrous consequences” of their failure to act in 2013, after Assad killed nearly 1,500 civilians with sarin gas in the Damascus suburbs. French planes were fueled and ready to launch, but the British and Americans balked. Since then, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons at least 85 times. And yet “a night of strikes is not a strategy,” said Arnaud de La Grange in Le Figaro (France). U.S. President Donald Trump obviously has no plan, so our President Emmanuel Macron must take the lead. No one expects to “go in one day from the Tomahawk to the peace pipe.” But this jolt could “reawaken diplomacy.”
It certainly did nothing to change the facts on the ground, said The Guardian (U.K.). The allied strike was meant to be simultaneously tough enough to deter Assad from further chemical-weapons attacks, and not so damaging as to provoke his sponsor, Russia, “into retaliatory action that might escalate the conflict.” Those goals are irreconcilable. Remember, the U.S. under Trump bombed Syria a year ago, in a similarly limited attack and for the same reason, and all Assad learned “was that he would not be seriously punished” if he gassed his people again. Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted that the U.K. joined last week’s operation not because Trump asked us to, but “because we believed it was the right thing to do.” That claim is laughable. We were little more than multinational window dressing for Trump, who might be flexing U.S. military muscle to distract from his many scandals back home.
May had to take part, said The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). To wait for the United Nations to approve any intervention would be to effectively “accept a Russian veto on U.K. action.” And Britain was in danger of becoming irrelevant in a vital region. When Trump was looking for support for the strike, he called Macron first, not May. France is now “supplanting the U.K. as America’s leading partner in Europe.” So where does that leave Germany? asked Holger Schmale in the Frankfurter Rundschau (Germany). Chancellor Angela Merkel approved of the attack on Syria, praising the U.S., France, and the U.K. for fulfilling their international responsibilities. Yet Germany has remained resolutely on the sidelines throughout this crisis, not even using its political heft to organize a diplomatic response to Assad’s crimes. How pathetic to see a nation as powerful as ours “talk of responsibility and do nothing.”