President Trump has ordered the launching of nearly 60 missiles on select targets in Syria.
His most tireless critics are now singing his praises.
Along with Trump himself, they reason that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless dictator who has used chemical weapons on his own people, including women, children, and babies. He is a gross human rights violator who had been permitted to cross with impunity President Obama’s “red line” one too many times. President Trump had to send an unmistakable message that the United States was under new management and would no longer tolerate such egregious abuses—from anyone.
And there is no doubt that Trump’s decision is not without its political advantages.
First, Trump’s action is already being hailed by countries, including Middle Eastern, Islamic countries, around the world.
Second, it is being hailed by many Democrats and Republicans alike.
Third, Trump’s immediate, forceful response stands in glaring contrast to the non-response of Obama after the latter drew a “red line” thatAssad was alleged to have crossed in unleashing chemical weapons on civilians. The impression that will not be lost upon scores of Americans is twofold: (1) The mess in Syria is a legacy of Obama’s presidency, a mess that he lacked the fortitude to prevent and/or rectify; and (2) Trump does have the strength to address it.
Fourth, the whole “Trump-is-a-Puppet-of-Putin” narrative that Hillary Clinton first launched during one of her debates with Trump may have finally (at long last) been put out to pasture. Given that Putin is not at all pleased with the President’s decision to target his ally, and in light of the fact that it was Obama, a Democrat, who did Putin’s bidding by refusing to follow through with his threat to Assad, the Democrats’ conspiracy theory regarding an alleged Trump/Putin tie is more than a bit difficult to sustain.
But while there are clear advantages to bombing Syria, there are potential disadvantages as well, for there is no small number of libertarians and classical conservatives who voted for Trump precisely because of his repudiation of the neoconservative/neoliberal, Republican/Democrat globalist vision that has informed foreign policy for decades. There are at least six arguments that have been made against this exercise in military interventionism.
First, it is unclear and, in fact, quite questionable that Assad did in fact do that of which he’s being accused. Why, the skeptics ask, would this Westernized, secular leader resort to this brutality when he would have surely known that it would invite universal condemnation? Strategically, on Assad’s part, the poisoning of the most innocent and vulnerable of Syrians is a no-brainer of the first order.
Second, on the other hand, the “rebels” that the United States government has been backing—rebelsm, as candidate Trump himself said on numerous occasions, whose identities we don’t know and who could very well be terrorists—would indeed have had an incentive in doing this deed and framing Assad for it.
Third, in 2013 when Obama was contemplating using the military against Assad, Trump fired off multiple tweets imploring the President to concentrate his energies on advancing the national interest by, among other things, ignoring Syria. Assad was accused then, as now, of deploying chemical agents against his fellow Syrians. Yet Trump insisted, as did many of those who would eventually vote for him, that Syria posed no threat to the United States.
Fourth, Trump’s attack on Syrian targets promises to exacerbate tensions with the second most heavily nuclear-armed power on the planet (Russia) and an ally of Assad’s.
Fifth, Assad, along with Putin, has been busy fighting ISIS. If, as Trump has assured us, the key objective is to destroy ISIS, then in bombing Assad, the President has just risked alienating allies in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
Finally, Trump acted unilaterally inasmuch as he never consulted Congress, a step that, Constitutionally-speaking, he is required to take before using military force.
The critics are correct.
Trump has conducted himself on this score both recklessly and, to be truthful, hypocritically. As was just noted, this is not the first time that Assad had been accused of utilizing chemical weapons on civilians. Obama faced a situation virtually identical to that which occurred a few days ago and yet, rightly, Trump informed him that the sort of globalist engineering that Obama had been engaged in was ultimately bad for America.
But now Trump goes and does exactly what he castigated Obama for considering.
And with this single action, Trump undermined most of what he had been saying about American foreign policy all throughout his presidential campaign, a message that distinguished him from almost all of his competitors in the GOP primary contest.
This being said, I don’t relate with many of the Deplorables who are now expressing disappointment, shock, and betrayal over Trump’s latest action. For nearly two years, I have been among those who have written tirelessly in support of the Trump candidacy or “the Trump process,” as Ilana Mercer describes it. As for Trump, the man or the politician, a few of us have always known—and have written as much—that his instincts for most of his adult life have been what we’d expect from a person with “New York values,” as Ted Cruz once correctly remarked.
While it is true that some of what Trump said many of us liked to hear, it is equally true that, ultimately, a few of us voted for him for reasons having little to nothing to do with his positions on any of the issues to which he spoke. Nor did we vote for him because of the Supreme Court or even because we found Trump preferable to the alternative.
We cheered Trump not directly for his policy prescriptions and promises but because his person, rhetoric, and style served as a resounding repudiation of the Politically Correct orthodoxy of the monoparty, the Government-Media-Hollywood-Academic Regime. The collective psyche of the culture is more fundamental than political policy and Trump’s victory was a huge psychic victory for tens of millions, i.e. those who the Regimists, epitomized by Clinton, viewed as “deplorable.”
We cheered Trump for the same reason that we cheered Brexit.
Still, none of this makes Trump’s deployment of military force any less deserving of the criticism that he is now rightly reaping from his many supporters who feel betrayed.