TRUMP'S SYRIAN ADVENTURE EXPLAINED
Red Line And Green Lights: The Moral And Strategic Bankruptcy Of Trump On Syria
By: Ian Reifowitz
April 9, 2017
Let’s first acknowledge that Syria is not an easy problem for any American president to deal with. It wasn’t easy for Barack Obama, and it won’t be easy for Donald Trump. This past week, however, Trump demonstrated that his policy on Syria—if one can even call it that—is both morally and strategically bankrupt.
A bit of history: In 2012, Obama laid down a “red line” on chemical weapons. In August 2013, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad crossed it when he authorized a chemical weapons attack that killed 1,400 people. After threatening a military response, President Obama ultimately accepted an offer from Assad according to which the Syrian leader owned up to having a chemical weapons program, and would allow the weapons to be removed from the country and destroyed.
Now let’s talk about what Assad did this past week. He used chemical weapons again in an attack that killed at least 100 civilians, including significant numbers of children. This was by far the most deadly chemical attack committed by government forces since 2013, and it occurred on Donald Trump’s watch. More than that, it came just five days after Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a major change in U.S. policy:
QUESTION: About President Assad, should he stay or should he go?
In other words, regime change is no longer the goal of the U.S. government. Similarly, our ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, offered: “Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.” The White House backed up Tillerson and Haley as well, as per spokesperson Sean Spicer: “There is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now." If Obama had his red line in Syria, this was certainly Trump’s green light.
Really? First, does Trump understand that tweets don’t disappear just because their author contradicts them? Second—and here’s where cause and effect comes in—the attack resulted from Trump’s weakness and irresolution, not Obama’s. How do we know? Well—and this isn’t too much of a leap here—Trump is the president now, not Obama. Let’s do this nice and slow, in case Trump or one of the members of his understaffed White House is reading: if Assad thought Obama was weak, he’d have unleashed this attack while Obama was president. He did it now because Trump told him it was okay. Trump gave him the green light.