Saturday, April 8, 2017


8 April 2017

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
101 Main Street #380
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Dear Congressman,

Re: Syria

I’m in two minds about yesterday’s strike on the Syrian air base. On the one hand, I find myself in very (!) reluctant agreement (!) with the president, that such a vile attack on Assad’s own people should not be allowed to go without appropriate response. Obama was widely criticized in a similar situation, but those so eager to criticize him forget that there was response, in the form of a carefully worked agreement with Moscow to remove chemical weapons to safety, beyond Assad’s reach. Putin’s assurance was proved specious, and not only by the autocrat’s attack last week. There have been many more.

But why now? And would it have been possible to have made an appropriate response without Trump’s act of aggression? I think so, at least initially. Following Obama’s example, some serious further, high-level diplomatic effort with Moscow just might have resulted in a withdrawal, or at least a weakening, of Russia’s effort to keep the Syrian regime in power.

Trump, however—I’m afraid not surprisingly—chose aggression first, over possible diplomacy. I hate violence in all its forms, and am firm in my belief that it does little other than beget further violence. Still, I do take note that the action was restrained—perhaps so restrained as to be ineffective—and that the loss of life was minimal. I believe that we have balanced military minds to thank for that. We can now do little more than cross our fingers in the hope that this small action does not trigger worse things to come.

What troubles me almost more than the action, though, is the impulsiveness with which it was authorized. As many others have already noted, one day it was: Hands off Syria, it’s their business. The very next, day it was: Bombs away! Where was the time to seriously weigh the possible consequences? To consider the alternatives?

And what else does this episode have to say about our reality television president*, who responds with such alacrity to images on TV? No matter how distressing the pictures he saw, no matter how moved he was by them—as we all were—the complete one hundred eighty degree turn in policy in a single day in response to those mages will have sent a perplexing message to the rest of the world. We are a strong—perhaps still the dominant nation. The global community needs to know that we can’t be pushed into reactive response by distressing images. What about images from South Sudan? From Yemen? From Mosul? Will Trump be so easily moved to drop bombs by every despicable act of cruelty in the world?

We can only hope not. There are too many of them. He would do better to revise those savage cuts he proposes in foreign aid, and work diligently for peace, along with a new, cooperative vision of world unity and the well-being of its population.


Peter Clothier, Ph.D.

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