The fiery and divisive election of 2016 brought anxiety for some, and joy for others. However, there is a far more frightening issue that lies beneath the results of the election and its immediate impacts.
It was confirmed by the Office of The Director of National Intelligence that the Russian government organized the hacking of the Democratic National Convention. An intelligence community assessment claimed that there was evidence to support Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a plot designed to undermine American trust in the democratic system. Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in this egregious, information-age attack on a sovereign nation.
After Syria was confirmed to have used banned chemical weapons on civilians, Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles onto a Syrian military base. The strike was backlash for alleged chemical weapon usage by the Assad regime, but it also appears to be a message to the global community that despite his professed love for Putin on Twitter, Trump will not accept the Russian support of the use of banned weapons. America, with Trump at the helm, is in a difficult position. We stand in an unavoidable neo-Cold War state of relations, now primed by the president’s most recent missile strikes.
At the time of Trump’s election, it seemed that US-Russian relations would reach a new era of prosperity. After Russia’s territorial aggression into Ukraine and America’s prompt sanctions, tensions were higher than they ever have been in the past decade. However, following Trump’s affectionate tweets and admiration for Putin, it seemed that relations had improved. After Trump’s missile strike and Putin’s hacks, tensions have risen, and US-Russian relations have plunged to Cold War levels. Both nations have accused the other of violations of international law.
This strike, in the perspective of human rights, is undoubtedly good natured. However, it is an aggression against a volatile and shattered nation. Is it really necessary for America to strike with such force on such a weakened country, who is allied with the United States to eliminate our common enemy The Islamic State?
Additionally, one must consider alternatives. While it is true that the Assad regime is committing atrocities in the killing of his own people, the alternative is either a strong and unified Islamic State of terror, or a removed Assad, a weakened Islamic State, and an enormous Iraq-like power vacuum of sinister opportunity. Some may say that America must decide between the lesser of two evils, and perhaps seek repercussions later. Others would argue that the line between Assad and the Islamic State is thinning, and democratic nations should all work together to eliminate both. However, despite the Syrian conflict, Americans need to consider the closer-to-home realities of Russia’s infiltration.
Putin has placed moles into high levels of our government’s data servers, it is clear that this should be America’s priority. It seems to be a new-world act of war, and few people have seemed to consider the possibilities of the future. While Syrian crimes are clearly a global concern, America needs to be focused on the information invasion occurring as we speak in our own country. There needs to be outrage and, potentially, cyber retaliation.
This conflict is multidimensional, and apparently timeless. It reflects American and Russian interests abroad and historically different ideas regarding a government’s duty, but it also serves to represent the tensions between the two; hacking, invasion, and bombings have all occurred, so then are we truly at peace? Additionally, one must consider the wider field of this conflict. In Asia, China and North Korea are arming up, and tensions appear to rise daily. The conflicting views of these global superpowers are being challenged once again, and the clash will spread onto every continent. It seems clear that we must avoid a war, however both superpowers are inching closer towards that front. We must take swift action so that we can maintain a healthy power balance but also eliminate threats to the sustainability of human rights. Peace must be kept between the two continent-stretching giants, and Syria, echoing Cold War style proxy-fighting, stands as a place to initiate a new conflict, or put tensions to bed.