Voice of Fairness

My personal opinion on science, religion and politics

Bomb first, ......, and no question allowed

On April 4, 2017, Syrian government forces launched an airstrike against the rebel-held town of Khan Shaykhun. Chemical poisoning soon followed the airstrike, killing at least 74 people, of which many are children. No party has so far claimed responsibility for the chemical poisoning.

Two hypotheses were immediately suggested, one by the American government and one by the Russian. The American one claimed that the Syrian government forces dropped poison-containing bombs during the airstrike. The regime has used chemical weapons before, so the Bayesian prior is against them. The Russian one pointed to the possibility of the airstrike hitting a chemical weapon store of the rebels. After all, given that the Assad regime has been winning battle after battle, and reclaiming town after town from the rebels, why would it choose to turn the whole world against itself? Besides, previous international investigations have shown both sides of the war to possess chemical weapons.

These are two valid hypotheses and should be readily testable. Weapon experts should be able to tell us which hypothesis is more consistent with the existing evidence on the ground. For this reason, almost all world leaders, including our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have originally called for an investigation to assign the blame. This is a great opportunity for the western world that has been in favour of getting rid of Assad. If the Syrian government forces is the culprit, then there is literally no chance for Assad to stay on, and the Russian government will be forced to apologize to the whole world for misplacing its support for a brutal regime.

But Americans decided to act alone without an investigation, and fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Air Base, which U.S. intelligence believed was the source of the attack.

In retrospect, it is not too bad an idea for U.S. to launch the attack. Imagine that Syrian planes were loaded with, or in the process of loading, chemical weapons and got hit right on the spot, spilling chemical poisons everywhere. Then the regime would be caught red-handed.

Unfortunately, this scenario did not seem to materialize.

Now all leaders of the western world were essentially hijacked to support Trump and assign blame to the Assad regime. It would be nice if U.S. could find another Colin Powell to offer solid evidence against Assad regime, but none in the U.S. government seemed to be willing to come forward. This created a rather awkward situation for U.S. allies. For example, when Justin Trudeau was asked why he changed his position so abruptly from calling for an investigation to assigning blame to Assad, he was forced to say something like "A trusted and reliable ally in the United States informed us that the Assad regime was responsible for these chemical attacks." [2]

Why such an important piece of information was not released publicly? Such a release seems to have huge benefit and little cost. It would be embarrassing to the Russian government and fatal to the Assad regime.

Did the Assad regime really used the chemical weapons? Given that Assad is supported by the Russian government, the regime probably would consult Russians before using chemical weapons, and Russians most certainly would say no. The Syrian/Russian alliance has been victorious in the battlefield. All what they need to achieve their objective is NOT to get international attention.

So people of the world were all eagerly waiting for U.S. to enlighten them, but then came the disappointing news. It turns out that, according to Eric Trump, President Trump did not base his decision of launching the airstrike against Syria on solid evidence and detailed analysis. Instead, his decision was based on the gut feeling of Ivanka Trump [3].

One may argue that President Trump listens to people, and Ivanka Trump happens to be a member of the people, so there is really nothing wrong to listen to her advice. One might even argue that U.S. government should in fact ask people to vote either in favour or against the airstrike and then simply follow it through with the voting outcome. However, when such voting is done not by people as a whole, but by a single sample of a single individual, there is clearly something gone wrong.

Now that the bombing has been done, can people still ask questions?

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/04/06/trudeau-syria-chemical-atttack_n_15850344.html

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/04/07/trudeau-us-syria-strike_n_15858668.html

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/11/politics/ivanka-trump-syria-strike-influence-telegraph/

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