The Syrian conflict began seven years ago as a popular rebellion against a dictatorial regime. It soon became a civil war with religious overtones before morphing into a series of proxy wars.
Saudi Arabia and its allies funded Sunni militias (some of them terrorist) fighting Assad. The U.S. tried, with little success, to find moderate rebel groups that it could arm and fund.
Kurdish militias in Syria made deals — first with Assad and later with the U.S. — designed to help them eventually carve out an independent state.
Turkey funded and armed its own militias, in part to maintain influence in a country that historically was part of its empire, in part to counter the Kurds.
Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah intervened on Assad’s side to protect their Shiite co-religionists from the Sunni militias and to expand Tehran’s influence in the region.
Israel intervened to counter Hezbollah and Iran.
The U.S. and its allies, including Canada, eventually intervened directly to fight the extremists known as Daesh, or the Islamic State. Russia intervened directly to prevent the Assad regime from collapsing.
It would be wise for the leader of any country to think carefully before entering such an inferno. But wisdom is not Donald Trump's strong suite. That's why Secretary of Defence James Mattis -- with help from Britain and France -- ordered a very limited and surgical strike last week. In the end, the strike will change nothing. But it will allow some people to salve their consciences. They will tell themselves that they did something.
One really concrete step would be for the international community to stop selling arms to the various factions. Those war wagons we sold to Saudi Arabia sent the wrong message.
Image: Gil John Rodriquez