On April 4, a reprehensible chemical weapons attack, carried out by government forces in Syria, killed dozens of civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun.
Just three days later, the U.S. launched missile strikes on the Syrian airfield from which the chemical weapons were deployed, marking a pivotal moment in the Syrian Civil War and the first direct attack carried out by the U.S. against the Assad regime.
The U.S. missile strikes ordered against Assad’s forces by President Trump represent the latter’s first true competency test in foreign affairs. And, surprisingly enough, he received high marks from a corner of the political world who, up to this point, almost derided his every move. All of a sudden, prominent Republican hawks are now perched in Trump’s corner, praising him for his interventionist approach to dealing with Assad, a policy notion that Trump had previously abhorred.
In a joint statement from frequent Trump critics and longtime warmongers, John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the two senior Senators offered up rare (and fairly tepid) praise for Trump’s decision to intervene in the Syrian Civil War. The Senators wrote in part:
“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people.”
Fellow hawk and sometimes Trump foe, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also offered up praise for Trump’s military actions, implying that a new much-needed approach to dealing with Syria is now being put into place. In a press release, Rubio stated:
“By acting decisively against the very facility from which Assad launched his murderous chemical weapons attack, President Trump has made it clear to Assad and those who empower him that the days of committing war crimes with impunity are over.”
Unsurprisingly, the trio of Senators also expressed in their statements their desire for these relatively small scale air missile attacks to be part of a broader “comprehensive strategy” for U.S. military intervention in the Syrian Civil War. Heck, even Hillary Clinton kept most of her bows in the quiver in addressing the Trump-led strikes in Syria, instead opting to also make the case for increased U.S. military intervention in Syria.
Trump has made a name for himself for having fluid policy positions, but even for him, his complete 180 on how the U.S. should involve itself in the Syrian Civil War, and engage itself in interventionism writ large, is remarkable.
Trump arguably won the Republican primary by making an example out of the Republican foreign policy establishment, frequently pointing to the failures of the Bush Administration along the way. The Iraq quagmire resulting from the Bush administration’s bullheaded interventionist approach to overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government was Trump’s ‘exhibit A’ in his argument.
Trump is also the guy who repeatedly stated during the presidential campaign that Syria was Russia’s problem, and made it clear that “America First” didn’t come with exceptions for rogue Middle Eastern nation-states.
And then there is Trump’s now thoroughly-mocked tweet from 2013 warning then-President Obama about the perils of unilaterally intervening in Syria without congressional approval.
The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2013
Mr. President, Irony is on line one.
Now, Trump suddenly fancies himself as a foreign policy hawk, greasing the skids for the next U.S.-led intervention into a Middle Eastern country that is tearing itself apart from the inside out. I feel like we’ve seen this movie before.
The establishment foreign policy hawks in the U.S. Senate seem giddy to drop bombs again from U.S. warplanes after a relatively peaceful last decade of American-led foreign policy decisions. We shall soon see how much Trump really intends to shake up the Washington foreign policy establishment or if he just plans to fall in-line right behind them.
Sam was raised in our nation’s capitol and, for as long as he can remember, has always been an avid political junkie. In a former life, he worked as a staffer to a U.S. Senator. He now works as an economic development consultant in Atlanta, but moonlights as a freelance political writer as a way to scratch his political “itch.” He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.