To Bomb or not to Bomb, That Was the Question
What to make of President Trump’s decision last week to launch a missile strike against Syria? That question has garnered varied responses from both Republicans and Democrats. Some say he shouldn’t have done it; others say it was the right thing to do; and still others say he didn’t go far enough.
In situations such as this, I pay close heed to the opinions of the deeply insightful Fareed Zakaria, a Washington Post columnist whose Fareed Zakaria GPS airs Sundays on CNN. He is nonpartisan, which means that his reasoned views usually side with the progressive camp. Here is what he wrote in the Post following the attack:
“There is much to applaud in President Trump’s decision to attack the Bashar al-Assad regime this week. It punished a regime that has engaged in war crimes against its own people. It upheld an international norm against chemical weapons. It ended Trump’s strange flirtation with Vladimir Putin on the Middle East. And, most significantly, it seems to reflect a belated recognition from Trump that he cannot simply put America first — that the president of the United States must act on behalf of broader interests and ideals.”
But that wasn’t all he wrote, going on to quote former defense secretary William Cohen: “‘One strike doesn’t make a strategy.’” Zakaria continued: “U.S. policy on Syria remains unclear. The Trump administration had repeatedly announced that it had shifted away from the Obama administration’s calls for regime change in Syria … The missile strike appears to have reversed that policy.”
Senator Tim Kaine
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said he doesn’t want the policy to be the United States telling Syria, “we’re going to change the regime of your leadership,” and added, “That’s for Syrians to decide.” Kaine said he agreed with United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley that there’s no political solution to the civil war in Syria, but said “that doesn’t mean that Assad moves aside because he’s tearing up the country. But instead of regime change, what we should focus on is humanitarian relief.”
On his GPS show Sunday, Zakaria said he was glad that Trump was moved by the photos of children dead and dying from the nerve gas sarin that Assad’s forces used. At least 80 people died and many more were injured. The casualties included a number of children. The journalist described the attack on the Assad regime “a blow against evil.” But, Zakaria said, Trump could show greater concern for all of the victims of Assad’s atrocities by providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees living in misery in refugee camps.
Mercy, mercy, mercy
That opinion echoed the one issued by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, except that he didn’t even approve of the missile attack. “The question,” he told MSNBC after the gassing, “might be why don’t we consider significant humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and border regions of Turkey and Jordan and Iraq in lieu of ineffectual military strikes.”
Senator Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders likewise decried the attack, fearing it draws us closer to war in the Middle East, and also urged humanitarian assistance to refugees.
David Korn, Washington-based bureau chief of Mother Jones and editor for The Nation, commented that Trump has no policy on Syria. He just behaved impulsively, with no plans for what to do next.
Senator Lindsey Graham
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he supported Trump’s decision to order the missile attack, but want the administration to take more action against Syria. “I’m glad Trump did this,” Graham said. “He is no longer Obama in the eyes of our enemies but he needs to do more to close the deal. There’s a new sheriff in town.”
However, a foreign policy analyst defended Obama’s refusal to strike Syria militarily, saying the former president reasoned that there was no way to know who would replace Assad, and the fighting among multiple factions made the situation too complex to effectively deal with.
Obama’s mistake was drawing a “red line in the sand” on Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But he apparently realized, after Assad crossed that line by initiating a gas attack, it would be a mistake to take military action. In violating his promise, he evoked the memory of George H.W. Bush, who promised, “read my lips: no new taxes,” then raised taxes when he realized the national debt was getting out of hand.