Expert Voices

Strategic costs of U.S. inaction in Syria outweigh risks

President Trump in a Cabinet meeting on April 9, 2018
President Trump with senior military leadership in the White House on April 9, 2018. Trump said he would decide his response to the Syrian chemical attacks by April 11. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Since the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7, President Donald Trump has reiterated that he will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.

The international response to these latest attacks will likely influence how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad eliminates remaining rebel strongholds in Syria. The regime would likely take a non-military response as license to end the civil war through any means necessary. In this regard, Trump was correct when he told Cabinet members that the issue “is about humanity.”

The big picture: The U.S. reputation is also at stake. When the president says there will be a “big price to pay” for the chemical attack, he must be true to his word — or risk acquiring a reputation for strong rhetoric followed by inaction.