No major politicians have dared to utter these words since George W. Bush famously stood by them (literally) atop an aircraft carrier 15 years ago. In this now infamous speech, Bush proclaimed the end of major combat in Iraq, right before the vast majority of casualties in the Iraq Wars, in a campaign that can hardly be called a ‘success.’
That is until last week, when our eloquent president tweeted “A perfectly executed strike last night... Mission Accomplished!”, referencing a missile strike on Syrian chemical weapons facilities. But, what is his ultimate goal in Syria?
As always, Trump’s action seemed to muddle his stance, rather than solidify it. At its very core, Trump’s “America First” presidency is contradictory. One of the largest draws in his election was his brutishness on the international scene.
He claimed he would not back down to anyone: not China, not Russia. He claimed he would force Mexico to pay for a border wall in reparation for the “criminals and rapists” it sent into the country and make NATO rightfully pay for the protection the U.S. provided. However, Trump’s “America First” policy was founded on isolationism. It meant protecting domestic workers by raising tariffs on international goods and protecting the safety of citizens over the safety of refugees.
Whether his stance is reasonable (it isn’t) or his policies valid (they aren’t) is another article for another time. It simply stands that Trump’s support stems from these two frameworks that he created in his campaign.
These two sides of Trump created a situation in which he could not win, politically speaking, in Syria. If he refused to intervene in the atrocities of the Syrian Civil War, he would be seen by many as backing down from Assad, giving up the global fight for western democracy. If he provided humanitarian aid, his isolationist following would have risen up in arms against the president putting the lives of people in some “shithole” country above the lives of Americans.
In many ways, Trump’s decision reflected that of his citizenry, a majority of whom claim that the U.S. is too involved in the Middle East as it is but cannot bear to see the sight of children choking in a chemical fog. It is fair to say that there is no answer that can satisfy the competing identities of the U.S. as the world’s police and its desire for isolationism.
That all being said, Trump did make a decision. His answer was to bomb the hell out of a chemical weapons facility. Fifty-nine tomahawk missiles and $60 million taxpayer dollars later, Trump declared mission accomplished. This leads back to the original question, what exactly is his mission? Can Assad continue to murder, starve and displace his entire country as long as its explosives and bullets are doing the killing rather than chemicals? This seems to be the only logical answer to Trump’s action.
Syria’s conflict has been a humanitarian crisis for years and can hardly be called anything but a genocide, chemical weapons or not. Contrary to whatever our president thinks, the missile strike didn’t help anyone; it didn’t save anyone’s lives; it didn’t stop anyone’s suffering. People are still going to die.
The only actually logical step to helping the people of Syria is one that Trump avoids like the plague — the acceptance of refugees. If his decision to finally intervene directly in Syria was anything more than maintaining a perception of American moral superiority to its citizens, refugees would be the only answer. Of course, we all know too well that Trump’s constant fear of anyone with darker skin than his fake tan will prevent this good from ever occurring.
Trump’s next step is not clear. It is entirely possible that this is a one-off event and America goes back to twiddling its thumbs while millions are killed. Any escalation beyond this strike would require a declaration of war, something that not even the most hawkish citizens support. Trump may simply call in a missile strike every now and again to maintain the status quo. This seems to be the most likely outcome. Limited strikes have been a common political tactic for presidents since Reagan. But this is all they are, political actions.
The first strike Trump called was on an airfield, almost exactly one year ago. Just one day later, the airfield was back up and running. The only success this most recent missile strike can bring is political. Whatever the outcome of Trump’s actions may be in the United States, the only thing I can guarantee for certain is that it will not help the suffering Syrian people.
Samuel Farrar is a freshman from Brevard, N.C. and plans to major in Political Science. He is The News-Letter’s Social Media Editor.