President Donald Trump recently engaged in a wide scale military strike on the military government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The strike was made in retaliation to a brutal attack Assad made on suspected Syrian rebels with chemical weapons that resulted in the ghastly death of scores of people, many of them children.
Trump's decision to strike is a major change in his previously stated view on the subject: in 2013 he tweeted that then president Obama should not attack Syria, even though al-Assad had crossed a red line Obama had set by using chemical weapons against the rebels in his country. And repeatedly on the campaign trail he decried the idea of the US getting further involved militarily in the Middle East. But now he has changed his tune, saying, “I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”
It's possible to be of two minds on this issue: first, it is obvious that al-Assad's attack was horrific and deserving of a military strike, the kind that Obama himself regretted not making in the past. According to the New York Times, al-Assad's motive for the attack was to completely demoralize the rebel movement, with civilian casualties being part of that demoralization. In another words, it's possible to be a progressive pacifist that despises Trump and still feel that he acted rightly here.
On the other hand, it also showcases Trump's impulsive behavior, as he acted without speaking to congress about it first, and seemed to be basing it on what he was watching on TV that day. Even worse, his anger at the death of children stops at our borders; he appears to have no intention of changing his policy of not allowing Syrian refugees to enter America, which would save more lives than missile strikes. Also, is this just the beginning? Will America continue bombing in Syria, or even send in ground troops?
My mixed reaction to the president's action is mirrored by many political figures: some of Trump's most conservative supporters have condemned it, feeling that it wasn't putting American first, as he so often said he would during the campaign. While many other Republicans and some Democrats have offered praise. Meanwhile, there's even been a debate as to whether or not it was legal, not that there's likely to be any consequence for Trump on that matter; he isn't the first president to launch such a strike.
And if that weren't complicated enough, the attack has soured relations between America and al-Assad ally Russia. Somewhat amazingly, the same candidate who never said anything negative about Vladimir Putin during the campaign, and who benefited from Russian computer hacking into the Democratic National Committee files, has now gone against Russia. Could this backfire on him? Do the Russians have some dirt on Trump, as has been often rumored?
One thing is sure, once again the unpredictable, even deranged style of leadership that Trump promised has led to an unknown conclusion. Trump may prove to be a transformational president to both the country and the world, but we'll have to hold our breath to see if that's a good thing or a bad thing.