Opinion: Trump’s Tomahawks


Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

Last Friday, the U.S. military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that was reported to have been responsible for the prior chemical gas attacks against Syrian civilians, images of which circulated social media earlier that week. Since media coverage of this military action has been basically non-stop since then, most people are familiar with this already.

However, I personally do not support this action. The reason being is not because I am an unreasonable pacifist, an isolationist or a fan of the Syrian “president,” Bashar al-Assad. Indeed, a military response to the chemical warfare to me not only seems justifiable, but almost obligatory since the U.N. cannot be relied on to enforce the international laws forbidding chemical warfare.

Admittedly, I am skeptical of the intel from the Pentagon that traced the chemical attacks to the Assad-controlled airfield. The alphabet soup of intelligence networks released no concrete evidence, yet the most reasonable explanation for that would be because it is classified.

Still, my confidence in the C.I.A. and the like has been dwindling ever since the invasion of Iraq, even if I can extend a bit of trust to them in this singular instance.

What really bothers me about this military strike is that it seems like an emotion-based, knee-jerk attack instead of a carefully-planned strike with clear goals and mitigated consequences.

Striking air bases that are engaged in chemical attacks is, by far, a superior strategy to arming rebel groups with shady and shifting alliances to fight a proxy war for regime change.

I abhorred the Obama administration strategy of arming rebels and not enforcing America’s so-called “red lines” when Assad crossed them. Yet, President Donald Trump, in his usual and perhaps commendable rush to swift action, has no apparent real plan for what happens next.

We’ve technically attacked Syria, yet we aren’t technically at war with Syria, with no clear White House stance on possible Syrian regime change. Trump has antagonized Russia, who I assumed we were trying to rebuild relations with.

Additionally, Trump did all this without consulting Congress, which is a typical Obama-like move that overreaches executive power in a display similar to those which Trump rightly criticized Obama for in the past.

If this attack was carried out with decisive goals in mind that fit into the Trump administration’s broader goals on statecraft and overall foreign policy philosophy, I may be able to get behind it. The White House can continue to justify the attack by citing the video of dying children, lungs filled with chemical gas.

That’s totally reasonable.

What isn’t reasonable is making a policy decision that pushes us deeper into the Middle East conflicts without any clear direction or plan.

The Trump administration’s modus operandi of “action first, planning later” foreign policy is turning out to be no better than the Obama administration’s honeyed words domestically and idle hands internationally.

I can’t support either of these methods.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]