Let me be blunt about this. I have no general objection to the U.S. shooting missiles at the military bases of regimes who use chemical weapons on their own citizens — which is what President Donald Trump has done.
It may or not be a good idea in any particular case, but as a general policy I don’t see a problem with it, and frankly after Barack Obama drew a “red line” on the Bashar al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, I think Obama needed to make good on this threat. The U.S. is a less effective peace keeper when bad actors think “they probably don’t really mean it, they’ve backed down before.”
But ‪I am horrified by the idea that Trump knew too little about Syria to understand that Assad has been brutally killing children for years, shocked by the idea that he would change a whole military policy in under 48 hours on the basis of pictures he saw on TV and apoplectic that he’s ordering missile strikes on behalf of the children he’s refusing to allow to come here as refugees.
And make no mistake — not intervening in Syria was Trump’s policy as far back as 2013, when he urged Obama not to attack Syria because it served no clear American interest and just wouldn’t be worth the hassle. He doubled down on this as a presidential candidate, saying that he had no interest in getting the U.S. involved in Middle Eastern quagmires — remember all the times he accused Hillary Clinton of being a war hawk who was going to keep us fighting in unnecessary conflicts?
And he tripled down on the position by trying to cut off aid to Syrian refugees, including children, when he became president. He said the people he’s now defending might have been members of the Islamic State.
And then of course there’s the fact that he’s staked his entire foreign policy agenda on getting along with Russia … and even if that’s a bad idea, it’s still an agenda … and Russia is the major global sponsor of the Assad regime in Syria. The one we just attacked.
Meaning that in one bold stroke Trump has potentially shot his entire foreign policy agenda to hell for no clear reason except that he saw kids he’d previously said might be agents of IS suffering on TV, and — perhaps not really grasping that thousands of children just like them were being butchered by the regime during the time he was defending it — decided he felt bad for them.
Honest-to-God, I’m hoping our president’s lying to us about the reason he’s decided to launch a military strike without consulting Congress. I’m hoping there is some kind of a deeper conspiracy at work here to enrich Trump’s coffers at the expense of our nation or secretly triangulate an oligarchical take-over by Russian and American billionaires or some such nonsense, because the alternative is that we have a president who really will change an entire national security doctrine, drop strategic alliances and commit us to wars on the basis of the pictures he saw on TV this morning.
That’s just terrifying. We created IS by intervening in Iraq without a clear plan. The lives of America’s soldiers depend on having a military policy grounded in reality. We have nukes.
I can see a reasonable foreign policy including the targeting of Assad’s regime, and I might even be for it, depending on the details. If the plan is a good one, I can work with that.
But we cannot have the world’s largest nuclear arsenal in the hands of a man who doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions. We dare not end up hearing, in the last broadcast of mankind, the words “no one knew that nuclear holocaust would be so complicated.”