There’s a big difference between advocating for a restraint-minded foreign policy and acting as an apologist for a genocidal maniac.
The United States may indeed be better served with a smaller footprint in Syria, given the current strategy on the ground. It’s fair to call on the administration to focus more on protecting U.S. interests at home than abroad. But that doesn’t mean we should ever speak without moral clarity or pretend that brutal dictators are instead misunderstood peacemakers.
Advocacy for restraint should never turn into apologia for dictators. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is a genocidal maniac who is responsible for the vast majority of deaths that have occurred over the course of the Syrian civil war. He has also committed countless chemical attacks on innocent civilians, taking thousands of lives.
Propping up Assad serves to advance the interests of our foreign adversaries in Russia and Iran.
Following the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack on civilians and rebels in Douma, Defense Secretary James Mattis and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley predicted that Russia and Iran would mount a major disinformation campaign to protect their client in Syria.
“We can all see that a Russian disinformation campaign is in full force this morning,” Ambassador Haley said over the weekend. “But Russia’s desperate attempts at deflection cannot change the facts.”
The Trump administration has maintained that there is a “very high level of confidence” that the Syrian regime did indeed carry out a chemical weapons attack in Douma. “We can say that the Syrian government was behind the attack,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a press briefing this weekend.
And following Friday’s U.S. and coalition missile strikes on Syrian regime chemical weapons research and development facilities, the foreign disinformation campaign has indeed accelerated on all fronts.
Russia, which uses its English-language networks RT and Sputnik to prop up Assad as a legitimate president, has blamed the U.K. for the attack.
The U.S.-based website One American News has acted as a propagandist for the Assad regime, claiming the Syrian dictator is a man of peace.
OANN goes full Bashar bro.
Moron "reporter" who admitted he can't speak Arabic concludes Assad regime didn't conduct chem weapons strike.
Syrians "love Bashar Assad…completely in support of Assad."
This is part of disinfo campaign Gen Mattis warned of.https://t.co/huWV3l1RMa
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) April 16, 2018
Another major Russian propaganda campaign has resurfaced, spreading debunked allegations that the U.S.-funded White Helmets, a humanitarian rescue group in Syria, is a terrorist organization.
I see there’s another deluge of Assad Putin propaganda against the White Helmets doing the rounds. For those tempted to believe any of it, here’s some background. #Syria @SyriaCivilDef https://t.co/pDBsW9N0LN
— JOHN NICOLSON (@MrJohnNicolson) April 16, 2018
The Kremlin is also claiming that Syria has no chemical weapons left, which is another easily debunked lie, according to western governments and opposition groups.
Restraint-minded American influencers, politicians, and leaders should try their best to inform themselves about the unfolding Russian and Iranian disinformation operations that seek to empower the global position of Moscow and Tehran. By all means, demand transparency in foreign engagements, but don’t become a sucker for adversarial propaganda campaigns.