Students, faculty discuss U.S. attack on Syria

UB community responds to Saturday morning's airstrike

Early Saturday morning, the U.S. and its allies launched over 100 missiles, targeting chemical weapons facilities in Syria. The airstrike was a response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in a Damascus suburb.

UB students are divided on the issue. Some support the strike because they believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needs to be held accountable for his reported use of sarin gas on citizens, while others are concerned the attack is a waste of money and could cause further problems in the Middle East.

Assistant political science professor Jacob Neiheisel said President Donald Trump is in an “unenviable” position with Syria.

“[Trump] has criticized the Obama administration for refusing to add resolve to the infamous ‘red line’ that it drew regarding chemical weapons,” Neiheisel said. “If he did nothing, the narrative would turn to his hypocrisy, [but] doing nothing might lend the public to draw connections with the Russia investigation and lead charges that he is, in fact, a puppet of the Kremlin.”

Proponents of the attack will support it because the use of chemical weapons violates a longstanding international norm, according to Neiheisel.

“Never mind the fact that far more people have died in Syria from more conventional weapons,” he added.

Roberto Williams, a junior political science major, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the attack.

“I’m glad that the Trump administration has upheld the belief of previous presidents, such as President Obama in acknowledging that the use of weapons on civilians that contain sarin gas is unacceptable,” Williams said. “On the other hand, this administration has shown a willingness to shoot first and ask questions later.”

Williams said he hopes the American involvement in Syria is “succinct” and includes clear objectives for what the strike will accomplish.

“The last thing we want is another quagmire in the Middle East,” Williams said.

Neiheisel said those who oppose the attack have likely “soured” on U.S. involvement in the Middle East and do not want the country to get drawn into another conflict in the region.

Erika Hollis, a junior political science major, said the situation in Syria is “hugely complicated.”

“What al-Assad is doing to his people is despicable. Do I think a few warned targeted air strikes will deter Assad? No. But I am reassured that it is not ‘Team America World Police’ rushing in as it was a joint effort with France and the U.K.,” Hollis said.

She is concerned that Assad will create a power vacuum that cannot be filled.

“How many times has the U.S. propped up shadow governments in countries after we took out their leadership? Look at what we did to Iraq, Vietnam, Latin America,” she said.

Hollis said continued efforts coordinated with NATO allies and the EU will force Assad to come to the table and stop the chemical attacks on his people without creating another Vietnam or Iraq.

Kevin Kohut, a sophomore political science major, is also skeptical about the attack. He said the bombing was “pretty predictable” and sees it as a foreign policy-based move to assert global dominance.

“I mean it was pretty predictable, but it’s nothing unusual –– more of a foreign policy based and trying to assert dominance,” Kohut said. “It’s a waste of money. It costs thousands, if not millions, to produce these weapons. We’re wasting them in a country that’s already destroyed and can’t be rebuilt –– we could be using [them] elsewhere.”

Maddy Fowler is a news editor and can be reached at

and @mmfowler13.