by George Cassidy Payne
Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that the U.S. used more than twice as many missiles as it did in a 2017 strike on Syria’s Sharyat Airbase on April 7, 2017. That attack used 59 Tomahawk missiles, and was ordered by President Donald Trump.
“We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time it was a heavy strike,” Mattis said.
If the 118 missiles used this time around were Raytheon manufactured Tomahawks, at least 165.2 million was spent on this mission. That’s a lot, especially when one considers other ways that this money could have been spent. Rather than blowing up three buildings, further traumatizing a war torn populace, subjecting the U.S. to Russian propaganda, and doing nothing to deter Bashar al-Assad from continuing to wage war against his own people, this money could have been spent on peacemaking.
What do I mean by peacemaking? For instance, while shaming the Syrian government over the use of chemical weapons-an abomination to all civilized people- President Trump could have rolled out a multi-pronged 165.2 million dollar investment strategy aimed at providing the Syrian people with real aid, dismantling Syria’s capacity for using these weapons in the future, and denying the Russians from accusing the United States of breaking international laws. After-all, 165.2 million dollars goes a long way.
To begin with, the president could have used a percentage of this money to offer asylum to the victim’s families. What city in America would turn away a refugee if their stay is bought and paid for by the United States government? Millions could have been spent (in a highly public way) to help Syrian refugees already relocated in the states with money for housing, medical care, education, and job training.
The president could also have made a high profile contribution to several cash strapped charity organizations that are making a tangible difference on the ground. Bolstering the operational budgets of groups such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and the UN White Helmets would have done more to send a message to the Assad regime than any missile strike ever could.
With the millions left over, the president could initiate a multinational peace summit that brings together all of the necessary parties.
Anything would be better than the status quo. Estimates of deaths in the Syrian Civil War, per opposition activist groups, vary between 353,593 and 498, 583. This bloodbath cannot go on. It may feel cathartic to blow stuff up, but it is not an effective way to bring peace to Syria. Just watch and see. The 162.5 million dollar missile strike will do absolutely nothing to stop the slaughter. If the president is truly committed on sending Assad and his allies a message, he should invest massively in humanitarian aid, peace publicity, and domestic support to refugees.
George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer, domestic violence counselor, and adjunct professor of humanities at Finger Lakes Community College in Western New York. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.