The United States government launched a military strike on a Syrian government air base this past Thursday. The attack was in response to a chemical attack in Syria, allegedly delivered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, that killed at least 70 people, ten of whom were children. Upon President Donald Trump’s orders, U.S. warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that was the home of the planes that carried out the chemical attack.
On a moral level, Trump’s military strike on Syria isn’t controversial. The chemical attack for which President Assad is supposedly responsible was truly horrific. He is a heinous dictator who has proven to go to grotesque measures to attain what he desires. Given the complicated nature of this situation, however, Trump’s strike does inevitably raise concerns and questions.
For one, this attack demonstrates Trump’s willingness to pivot on key diplomatic issues. Throughout the election, Trump changed his tone on numerous occasions regarding numerous topics. One thing that he remained consistent on, however, was his stance regarding military intervention in the Middle East. It’s safe to say that he staunchly opposed the idea. Attacking Hillary Clinton for her history of military intervention in that region of the world leading to unnecessary bloodshed and destabilization that led to power vacuums being ruthlessly filled by terrorist organizations was a massive part of his campaign’s isolationist rhetoric, which was parroted by his supporters. He even pinpointed Syria specifically as a country in which the United States should not intervene.
Another issue worth discussing is the nefarious legality of the air strike. On Aug. 29, 2013, Trump tweeted, “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.” Trump himself did not have Congressional approval for the Syrian airstrike.
What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
Over the past decade, many of the United States’ military interventions in the Middle East have been justified to be executed without specific Congressional approval under the 2001 authorization by Congress to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” Attacks on the basis of this authorization have been continually stretched, but Trump’s attack quite simply does not fall under the umbrella of this authorization. Destabilizing Assad’s regime works to the benefit of the rebels in Syria trying to do the same thing. These rebels happen to be ISIS militants, which makes using this authorization to justify Trump’s attack absurd.
Finally, The United States’ strike on Syria makes our country’s relations with Russia even more volatile. The day following the airstrike, the Kremlin issued a statement denouncing President Trump’s use of military force to deal with this issue. Russia then proceeded to cease cooperation with the United States in Syria, suspending an agreement to share information about air operations over the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office called the airstrike a violation of international law and a “significant blow” to the Russian-American relationship. Putin and Assad are known to be allies, and the former has supported the latter’s proclamation of innocence regarding the chemical attack. Trump administration officials have alleged that Russia might have had some responsibility in the chemical attack on Syria’s citizens.
Regardless of your perspective on this multifaceted issue, one thing is certain—the attacks are extremely significant in the global landscape, and could prove to have huge implications in numerous parts of the world. Time will tell how this situation unravels.