America the Liberator

Now is the time to recall what happens when America comes to the aid of other nations with military action

A star is born: U.S. President Donald Trump. One missile strike and the man the whole world feared became its great hope overnight. Yesterday’s Satan is tomorrow’s God. From German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel’s own Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, and of course, Yair Lapid, they’re all cheering him. Savior of children, humanist, man of conscience, modern-day Janusz Korczak, who, shocked and saddened by the dead Syrian children, bombarded their killers.
If his Tomahawks saved even one Syrian child, dayenu, it would be enough. That’s already more than his predecessor did. But we must spoil the party, it’s premature and over the top. The Nobel Peace Prize can wait.
Now is the time to recall what happens when America comes to the aid of other nations with military action: It always ends badly, usually in a Holocaust. The last time the United States saved the world through war was in 1945. That was the last just war. Since then, the United States, the greatest perpetrator of massacres since World War II, has caused the deaths of millions in wars meant to rescue and liberate them.
When America liberates, it sows death and destruction and causes endless sorrow. Ask the Iraqis. What wouldn’t they give for America not to have come to their aid and free them from their tyrant. Their country would have been a safer and much less bloody place had the leader of the free world not decided to liberate it in a war that was dubbed, naturally, “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Ever since, Iraq has known very little freedom and much more bloodshed. The U.S. occupation of Iraq was also the catalyst for the Arab world’s implosion. The poison gas of Syrian President Bashar Assad is an indirect by-product. The people of Libya will never forget their rescuer. The U.S. intervention in their civil war led to the removal of their dictator but also to the destruction of their state, which persists to this very day.
America’s wars of liberation resemble, if not in their death tolls, those of Israel, its ally. In 1967, Israel liberated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ever since the inhabitants of these territories have been dumbstruck with appreciation for and gratitude to the liberator of Jerusalem and Palestine. They have never known such freedom. Before that, Israel liberated Jaffa and Haifa, Ramle and Lod, in a war that, naturally, became known as the War of Liberation. The United States liberated South Korea — two and a half million dead — and South Vietnam — four million dead. Together, six and a half million people killed in vain. And behind each such war against communism stood lofty causes and mass bloodshed.
So it might be better were America not to come to the aid of Syria’s children, especially if the finger on the trigger is Trump’s. On the other hand, they must be rescued, whatever it takes, and the United States is the only one that can do the job. After years of vicious warfare in Syria, there is no magic cure. Some analysts suspect, in light of the results, that Trump’s Tomahawk missiles were coordinated in advance with Russia and, through Russia, with Syria, and that the strikes were in fact meant only to serve the president’s domestic political goals.
But this could be a blessing in disguise. If the president sees the world cheering him for the first time in his first 100 days in office, perhaps he will persist. Perhaps this acclaim will lead to a new era, an era of action after his predecessor’s beautiful, high-flown rhetoric.
Trump must turn first to Jerusalem, whose institutions do not need to be bombarded in order to exert pressure on the government. The president can achieve in Jerusalem what no missile could achieve in Syria. A reminder: The only time the United States was a partner to genuine success in uprooting an evil regime was in the face of apartheid South Africa. America did not fire a single missile. A diplomatic Tomahawk on Jerusalem would bring Trump more gratitude than did the 59 missiles of his nighttime strike on Khan Sheikhoun. Perhaps it would also save even more children.

Gideon Levy

Haaretz Correspondent

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