THE target strikes last week by 59 Tomahawk missiles ordered by United States President Donald Trump against the Shayrat airfield of Syria signals a full escalation of what the Syrian civil war has really been: a proxy war between America and Russia. Over the past half-decade, the two world powers have managed to camouflage their engagement in the Syrian crisis through various sly devices, such as, reportedly by the US, the organization and funding of the terrorist group IS which carries the brunt of the rebellion against the Assad government, and by the Soviet Union’s equipping and full logistical support of the Assad military in battling the rebels. No doubt, the Trump order for the Tomahawk target strikes came as a retaliation by the US against the chemical weapons attack launched by the regime in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, injuring scores of civilians. But the swiftness with which it came about indicated a firm resoluteness in the US presidency uncharacteristic of past US administrations, that of just past President Barak Obama being the more recent one. Trump’s swift decision was made at a time when he was preparing to go to a state dinner for visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Condemnation of the chemical weapons attack was instantaneous and pronouncements of support for the Trump counterstrike were to be expected. As early as January 2016, top officials of the Pentagon were already of the mindset that the outbreak of World War III was imminent, so that the world-scale implication of the hostilities in Syria should right away indicate where nations stand in the conflict.
Statements of support for the US action came from Britain, Germany, France, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, Italy and Japan.
Leading the nations criticizing the Trump Tomahawk strikes was Russia. This is to be expected. Under the theory of proxy war, the Soviet Union must feel being actually hit in the attack. Like the rest of the governments immediately coming to its defense in the resultant propaganda exchanges – Syria, Iran, Bolivia – the Soviet Union denounced the US strikes as an act of aggression by the US of a sovereign state, a unilateral action in violation of international law.
But as laws are meant to be broken, whatever international laws there are governing wars between nations, those laws are ultimately subject to violations by military might. From the point of view of the United States, the sneak attack by Japan against Pearl Harbor in 1941 was wrong, but in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, that went well with its mandate: “Attack where you are least expected.” The Trump air strikes were certainly unexpected in the proxy war scenario in Syria where hostilities are overtly between the IS-led rebels and the Assad regime. But as the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack inevitably led to the outbreak of open hostilities between the US and Japan, will the unexpected US air strikes in Syria lead to a similar course of confrontation between the US and Russia?
The last time such a level of heightened tension took place between Russia and the US was in the naval blockade ordered by the late US President John F. Kennedy in 1962 against Cuba after US satellites revealed emplacements in the Caribbean nation of Soviet missiles directed at the US mainland. The Cuban missiles crisis sent the world teetering on the edge of a global confrontation and humanity owes the Soviet Union for ultimately dismantling the Soviet missiles in Cuba. With the Tomahawk target strikes in Syria, can the Soviet Union keep its cool as it did in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962?
All indications are that the Russo-American confrontation has finally gotten out of the proxy status in the Syrian civil war, and with Trump’s current display of decisiveness, a full-scale world conquest by the US, either through direct military aggression or through covert collusion with certain governments, is in the offing. What Trump is engaged in now can be an implementation of an American policy that must have been reached in a future-of-the-Army panel in Washington on October 7, 2016 in which US Army chiefs made forecasts of upcoming conflicts and candidly admitted that World War III is not only inevitable but that it would be quick.
Who will be involved in the war?
A report on the panel states, “Military bosses have warned against the threat of Russia and China.” The report cites an account by Defense One, a US military publication, which quoted Major General Hix thus, “A conventional conflict in the near future will be extremely lethal and fast, and we do not own the stopwatch.”
Judging from the course Trump took in ordering the Tomahawk target strikes, the trigger was the chemical weapons attack by Assad. Indeed, the US does not own the stop watch in the current war development.
But one thing intrigues. In the flurry of reactions to the Trump air strikes, China, which the panel identified as one of two main antagonists in the coming world war, has taken a surprisingly neutral stand. As expressed by Chinese official Hua Chunying, China hopes “… all sides will stay calm and exercise restraint to prevent the escalation of tension.”
In other words, China gets out of the predetermined box of being categorized with Russia as an enemy of the US. This cannot but be a breather in a highly charged situation. China has even gone on record as threatening to withdraw support for North Korea if it does not stop its nuclear armament program.
US army chiefs concede that the US does not own the stop watch in a third gobal confrontation. By refusing to get embroiled, China may just spell the great equalizer between world doom and salvation.