In a 2002 article, respected linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky asks:
What is the proper response to the crime? Whatever the answer, it must at least satisfy a moral truism: If we propose some principle that is to be applied to antagonists, then we must agree — in fact, strenuously insist — that the principle apply to us as well.
A reaction or response to the chemical weapon incident in Syria a few days ago therefore demands due process, i.e. that international law (and domestic law) is respected. Reacting to a war crime with another war crime would would violate the above principle.
To find an appropriate response, we first have to assess the situation: The origin of the chemical weapon incident has not been proven. It might have been an accident when a stock of chemical weapons was hit. It might have been one of the many terrorist groups (euphemistically called “rebels” in the western media) or even ISIS to evoke a reaction by the US. It might even have been a false flag operation—a tactic well known to be used by the US especially since Iraq 2003 but also before (Gulf of Tonkin incident). Therefore, until the origin is proven without any doubts, any military strike is unlawful and against the moral standards of the West.
A military strike against another country is only legal if the UN gives its approval or if a country is in danger and the military action can prevent more violence. In this case, there was no UN approval at all—not even a demand—and the US was in no way in any danger. The military strike against Syria by Donald Trump is therefore a war crime.
Thirdly, a military action should reduce future violence. Often an attack worsen the conflict as in the case of the Balkan wars in the 1999. An action that leads to an entirely predictable attack on the civilian population can not be an appropriate response to an (alleged) war crime. The strike might pressure Assad and lead to increased violence. It could even escalate into a confrontation with Russia. A highly risky action therefore—strategically and as well from the humanitarian perspective.
The way to peace
Let’s have a look at “the grand chess board” of the Middle East: The US wants a regime change in Syria to redraw the borders as John Bolton has expressed. In addition, the there are plans to build a pipeline through Syria that will transport gas to Europe. This pipeline is nothing less than an economic weapon against Russia as it threatens Russia’s income from gas exports. Russia therefore will do anything to prevent a regime change by the US.
The only way to peace is therefore that the US gives up its imperial strategy and stops “arming and training rebel groups” (i.e. supporting terrorism). Then a diplomatic option might have a chance and after a truce, an established peace, a transition period (with Assad in power), free and fair election could take place.
But first and foremost, the US has to give up its imperial aims in the region.