President Trump laid out a simple rationale for ordering missile strikes against Syria: When Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, he had crossed a humanitarian line that demanded a firm response.
Put another way, the president asserted that the United States was again demonstrating it was a power for good and delivering a potent message to a bad man.
But the premise falls apart if Assad was not responsible for what happened. The Kremlin made such a statement, and then it cut off its military agreements with the U.S. in Syria. The Iranians also are angry, saying any allegation against Assad was “bogus.”
A couple U.S. politicians are questioning the “Assad did it” theme. The most recognized is Ron Paul, who on the RonPaulLibertyReport.com website is quoted as saying,
it doesn’t make sense for Assad under these conditions to all of the sudden use poison gasses,” Paul continued. “I think it’s zero chance that he would have done this deliberately.”
Perhaps you think Russia, Iran or Paul lack any credibility. Fine. What do you think about Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who on Thursday urged caution before any political leader responded to what had happened in Syria?
Consider what he told a Globe and Mail reporter.
There is another issue nagging at the argument that Trump did the right thing: his rhetoric against Muslims. The Guardian puts it rather bluntly: If Trump is to be believed that a humanitarian impulse guided his military decision, then he must show the same impulse with refugees.
He might start with his revised Muslim travel ban (currently blocked by the courts) which halts all refugee entry for 120 days while his officials develop new ideological tests known as “extreme vetting.” He might welcome the refugees coming from Australia, in what he used to call a “dumb deal.”
Let’s assume the president’s rhetoric will not end, and at the same time he will not find a compassionate streak.
There’s yet another issue undercutting the idea that Trump did the right thing: He’s already got blood on his hands. As the New Statesman reminds us,
This supposedly dovish and isolationist Republican sent Navy Seals into Yemen on 29 January, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 Yemeni civilians, including ten women and children. In late March, as politicians and pundits obsessed over Trump’s ties to Russia, US air strikes in Iraq were reported to have killed about 200 civilians in Mosul and a US-led coalition bombed a school near Raqqa, Syria, which is believed to have caused the deaths of at least 33 civilians.
What we’re left with is a president who acted responsibly, or who is too quick to act without considering the complex ramifications of his decisions.