Unholy Week

The non-Christian, anti-Christ president—who 80% of white evangelicals supported in November—has marked one of Judeo-Christianity’s most sacred calendrical periods with a series of hostile events that imply the possibility of three or four major, murderous campaigns, if not a rhetorical or actual Third World War. Nobody knows the intentions or outcomes of the administration’s actions, but it is hard to imagine any narrative that contextualizes them in an optimistic fashion.

On April 7, the U.S. bombed a Syrian air base in retaliation for the Syrian governments alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people. There are at least four major problems with this. First, the bombing killed several Syrian civilians including children. Second, although there is no doubt that Assad is a horrible dictator, there remains the need for some investigation to prove that he was responsible for the sarin gas attack. Third, the Assad regime is allied with Russia in the fight against ISIS, so the U.S. bombing appears to have fueled tensions with Russia. Fourth, the Assad regime used that airbase to launch missions against ISIS, so attacking the Syrian government and its military infrastructure can be seen as an indirect support to the entity that our governments claims to be its number one enemy. If all of these problems can be combined into one generalization, it is that the devastating conflict in Syria is complex, and a macho, knee-jerk reaction is counterproductive to any effective strategy in the region.

Similarly the week before, the U.S. announced an increase in support to Saudi operations in Yemen, an arena that has grown to rival Syria as one of the most tragic crises in the last 70 years. The U.S. is lending equipment and expertise to the Saudis as they combat the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. At the same time, the U.S. has run its own mission to undermine the regional Al-Qaeda group in Yemen, including the disastrous Navy SEAL raid in January. In that particular case, the Yemeni people who are more or less aligned with Al-Qaeda are fighting the Houthis, so they are at once our allies as well as our enemies. This amounts to the U.S. supporting both sides of the Yemeni conflict, which should be a despicable aberration except that it is typical of U.S. intervention, as we have observed in Syria. The U.S. is fully willing to support Al-Qaeda-aligned rebels in Syria against Assad, yet the SEAL raid Yemen was claimed to be a “highly successful” mission to gather “vital intelligence” on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

If the Trumpian military responses to the humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen aren’t adequately foreboding, then his decision to challenge North Korea’s longstanding nuclear bluff by dispatching an aircraft carrier group to the Korean peninsula should punctuate the week of military maneuvering nicely. Clearly North Korea is a horribly oppressive state under the Kim dynasty, but a cavalier show of force may not be the most tactful effort. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Eurasia, Trump has done an about face and called for a stronger NATO, and now American soldiers are stationed along Poland’s border with Russia.

I will barely mention that the U.S. is sending military personnel into Somalia for the first time in two decades in order to fight terrorism and that we dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in our arsenal on an ISIS cave and tunnel complex in a remote area of Afghanistan. In 2017, Holy Week has been a coldhearted display of Trump’s eagerness to use unholy violence. He seems so ready to massacre enemy combatants as well as innocent civilians that he is setting himself up for any of a number of possible wars around the globe. It would be wonderful to see ISIS, Al Shabab, Assad, and Kim eliminated from our troubled world, but common sense as well as history have demonstrated that cultural chauvinism, disrespect, macho posturing, and careless military massacre will always be counterproductive in the dismantling of extremism.