There Is A Case For Trump’s Syrian Bombing, But Beware
In a way, the world should not have been as shocked as it was by the news that President Trump had ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase in retaliation for Bashir Al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Idlib province. Trump’s most consistent characteristic is that he is totally inconsistent; he’ll spin on a dime without the slightest warning and generally has no core principles beyond an instinct for sensing weakness and exploiting it. This unpredictability has been my biggest and most longstanding reservation towards Donald Trump, especially in the realm of foreign affairs. Is it really so surprising that he would do a complete 180 on his entire Syria policy? Not especially.The decision itself is not without justification. Al-Assad’s decision to use chemical weapons against a civilian target is utterly reprehensible and without any possible defence. Let us dispence with any illusions here, that Al-Assad was the perpetrator of this crime is almost beyond question. “Why would he do such a thing in a war he is already winning?” I can hear the protests already. The simple answer is, because he felt he could. The most condemnable part of Barack Obama’s legacy, which even many of my more leftishly inclined friends will agree to, is how over the eight years of his time in office the credibility of the United States as a world power has waned to such a degree that someone like Al-Assad likely felt perfectly confident that he could use even a weapon as condemnable as Sarin nerve gas without consequence.
That is the justification for President Trump’s decision to launch a retaliatory strike against the Syrian government. All of us, whatever our political stripes, can agree that we do not want to live in a world where horrors such as nerve gas or potentially even worse agents can be used with impunity. By deciding to do what Barack Obama blinked at doing in 2013, Trump has undeniably shattered the perception that the law of the jungle is once again preeminent on the world stage, and that anything can be done without consequence or retaliation.
For all that, there is certainly cause for reservation from this course of action. Al-Assad is a monster, there is no dispute about that, but anyone entertaining the idea of regime change needs to give serious thought as to who should replace him? ISIS are a death cult of madmen, and the soft-Islamist militias that make up the “moderate” rebels are little better. Any transition to a new government that we in the West would find even minimally palpable would doubtlessly require the support of ground troops for an inestimable amount of time (sounding familiar yet).
Not only that, but it remains to be seen how Russia will react to this attack on their ally. So far they have already suspended a previous agreement to avoid conflict between their own forces in Syira and those of America and its allies currently fighting ISIS. Other than being consistently inconsistent, the other most recurring feature of President Trump’s personality is a tendency to react badly to confrontation and meet attack with attacks of his own. A confrontation between Russia and the United States over Syria could easily spiral out of control with no gaurantee that cooler heads would ultimately prevail.
After eight years of Obama’s passivity on the world stage, it is undeniable that President Trump has proven he will not hestitate to use American military power the way his predecessor did and this is a welcome development. What is very much in question is whether or not he will demonstrate the depth and restraint needed to know when to use it. The consequences of that may be dire indeed.