In one of the most controversial decisions of his presidency, Donald Trump led a coalition of the U.S., the UK, and France into the “heart” of Syria’s chemical-weapons making facilities this weekend, launching more than 100 missiles in a targeted airstrike meant as retaliation for last week’s horrifying attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma.
But while the airstrikes were anything but unilateral and appeared to be justified based on the unthinkable actions of the Assad regime, they were extremely controversial – especially among some of Trump’s earliest and most committed supporters. Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Mike Cernovich, and Alex Jones were among the loudest voices against the strikes, as they accused Trump of following a Bush/Clinton roadmap of Middle Eastern intervention – the exact kind of world policing that Trump promised to lead us away from.
To be clear, we don’t fully agree with this cadre of critics. The alternative is for Trump to wave his hand and tell this sick dictator that he can continue to carry out law-defying atrocities without worrying about any repercussions whatsoever. This is the kind of international mindset that paves the way for an Adolf Hitler to rise.
At the same time, their point is well taken. A limited, precision airstrike is one thing, but where do we go from here? What if Assad decides once again that he hasn’t gotten the message? Do we finally go forward with a military effort aimed at total regime change? Where does that put us in relation to Russia? Even if you take Putin’s interests off the table, to whom would we be giving command of Syria over to? ISIS? Al-Qaeda? How is that a step in the right direction? Surely the never-ending war in Afghanistan and the dreadful aftermath of Iraq has taught us that sometimes even the worst leadership regimes are best left alone.
It’s at times like these when we do not envy someone in President Trump’s position, because there are no truly “good” solutions to this crisis. He’s going to take heat no matter what he decides to do at this point. Any path forward is going to come with a significant price to pay, both in terms of human casualties and bottom-line economics. It does not help that the American media is desperate to portray this as some kind of “wag the dog” situation where Trump is trying to draw attention away from the Special Counsel investigation.
For now, the ball is back in Assad’s (and Putin’s) court. Unfortunately, we’re not filled with great confidence that they will do the right thing.