UpFront - What will US attacks against Assad achieve? - UpFront

Editor's note: This UpFront debate was recorded shortly before the US-led attack on chemical weapons sites in Syria.

The Syrian government is being accused of another suspected chemical weapons attack on its own people, and world leaders are debating how to respond.

The April 7 attack in the rebel-held town of Douma killed at least 70 residents and injured hundreds more. In response, US President Donald Trump called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "a gas killing animal".

Trump had previously criticised former President Barack Obama's inaction following a chemical attack in 2013, but it remains to be seen what effect US attacks on Syria would have.

"The record that the United States is going to drop bombs in order to bring happiness or to protect people in the world is an extremely poor one," says journalist and cofounder of The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald. "That's generally the excuse it uses for geopolitical reasons."

Greenwald points to the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya as examples where US intervention based on humanitarian purposes did not turn out well for the people they were supposedly trying to help.

Eli Lake, a columnist for Bloomberg View, disagrees. He says US intervention in Iraq and the enforcement of a no-fly zone protected Iraq's Kurdish people.

He argues there is a now a trend of using chemical agents in the world and "if you want to reverse that trend, Bashar al-Assad must pay a very heavy price." He argues if the US does not do this, no one will.

Complicating the situation are the thousands of Russian troops stationed throughout Syria, supporting the Assad government.

Crippling Assad would mean killing Russians, says Greenwald. He argues a US-led intervention poses a "serious risk of an actual hot war between two countries that have very deep-seated animosities going back decades".

After more than seven years of war and half a million people killed, Lake says "we're watching the consequences of non-intervention." He says the US is through with feeling bad about its mistake of non-intervention.

"The United States hasn't had a policy of non-intervention in Syria," argues Greenwald. "It has armed the rebels to a tune of $1bn a year, not enough to overthrow Assad, but enough to keep the war going."

Greenwald says the US has played a big role in Syria and they are not going to solve the problem under Trump.


(Source: Al Jazeera English, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1tYVBuiRK8)