Last week, the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people. Videos of the results of the attack were seen around the world. Images of children dying in their parents’ arms caused international outrage. In response to that attack, President Trump fired Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military base that was believed to be housing these weapons of mass destruction.
While this was applauded by many on both sides of the aisle, many of Trump’s core supporters met this news with dread, fearing that Trump had abandoned his noninterventionist stance that he had campaigned on, and he would now be following in the footsteps of his predecessors. Trump’s base has good reason to be concerned. There have been conflicting reports coming from the Trump administration, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said,
“We are prepared to do more, but hope that won’t be necessary.”
Other cabinet members have taken a harder line on the Assad regime, even suggesting a regime change. Clearly, the message on Syria and Assad is conflicted, and there seems to be no clear voice on the matter. Though Trump has said he would not invade Syria in recent days, what is even more concerning is that Trump seems to have acted on emotion and gut feeling once he saw the video of the attack. While anyone would be horrified by the atrocities that took place, abandoning your stance in not involving America in pointless wars that pose no threat to America security shows the lack of experience and flying by the seat of your pants emotion that makes many uncomfortable and worried that he will take further action, and perhaps may even attempt a regime change. That would be disastrous for Trump and the country.
On the other hand, we may not be giving Trump enough credit. He did enforce the red line that Obama drew after learning of a chemical attack in 2013. This strike shows the world that America means business again and that we will follow through with what we say. For eight years, America has acted in a very passive, apologetic manner, and Trump could be showing the world that America is the guy with the biggest stick and is assuming the “alpha” status again. He mentioned that he believes in “peace through strength.” Not many countries are looking to mess with America when its president is willing to back up his words. Countries like China, Russia, and North Korea will certainly take notice and will consider taking a different tone when dealing with America.
One other point to think about is that the conflicting messages coming out of the Trump administration could be by design. This would keep Assad guessing as to what Trump will do. That uncertainty could keep him from following up with further attacks.
In his short time as President, Trump has been all over the map, so there is really no way to get a good reading on the administration. This strike on Syria could be coordinated and well thought out to achieve certain strategic goals, or it could very well be that Trump is out of his league and making it up as he goes along. I personally choose the more optimistic of the two options, but it really would not surprise me if the latter is true.