Recently, chemical weapons, possibly containing sarin, that were believed to have come from the Assad regime in Syria were used in the rebel held area of Khan Sheikoun, though Assad denies responsibility for the attack. It is estimated that about 85 people have died as a result. As a result of the attack, Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base, costing millions of dollars from a supposedly budget-conscious administration, and killed at least 6 people. This attack has drawn praise from some, but ire from many others.
First of all, I am angered that one of things about Trump that I actually liked has just been thrown out the window. Throughout the election, I criticized Clinton for what I saw as a more hawkish stance than Trump. I thought Clinton's advocacy for a no-fly zone over Syria could only lead to disaster and a possible war with Russia. Now, Trump has gone and done something much worse than simple creating a no-fly zone, also angering Russia in the midst of the Russia investigation. Several conservatives, including major Trump critic Senator John McCain, have praised the move. Meanwhile many people in the so-called Alt-Right, including Milo Yiannopolous, have criticized Trump for what they see as a return to the neoconservativism he promised to get away from, with Milo tweeting about how his "Daddy" disappointed him. Rand Paul also heavily criticized Trump, calling his action unconstitutional. Hillary Clinton, in a twist of fate, stated hours before the attack in an interview that such an attack should be carried out. Some have called the attack unwise, while others believe it shows strength that Obama did not have.
This attack has greatly strained our international relations. Both Assad and Putin have condemned the attack. Coming right before a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jingping, China also condemned the attack. As the days continue to unfold, we will have to see where this leads. The last thing this country needs is to get involved in another Middle Eastern quagmire. The war in Iraq was what blew open the powder keg that led to the rise of ISIL in the first place. I am no fan of Bashar al-Assad, but blowing open under Middle Eastern powder keg is neither a sound foreign policy, nor the best way to resolve the crisis.
There are several factions within the Syrian Civil War. Currently in power is the Ba'athist government headed by Bashar al-Assad. Assad is Alawite Muslim (a minor Shia sect) and has been President of Syria since 2000, succeeding his father Hafez al-Assad.) Ba'athism is an Arab nationalist, but secularist ideology. The Syrian Opposition is made up of several factions, most of which are a part of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Their goal is to get rid of what they see as an oppressive, dictatorial regime. ISIL is a Wahhabist (radical, conservative Sunni) organization that hopes to dominate the Middle East as an Islamic caliphate. Finally, Rojava is a secular organization made up of people of all different backgrounds, mainly Christian Assyirians and Muslim Kurds that hopes to obtain autonomy from the rest of Syria, who they see as oppressive to their rights as ethnic minorities in an Arab-majority state.
Most Sunni nations, like Saudi Arabia, back the Syrian Opposition, while Shia nations, like Iran, back the Assad regime. Russia, of course, is another major backer of the Assad regime, claiming it is the best defense against ISIL. After all, ISIL only really arose after deposing of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was also attacked on the basis of chemical weapons. Most Western nations back the Syrian Opposition, but many also back Rojava, but only in the case of stopping ISIL. Like before the First World War, this is a messy set of international relations that could easily be set off.
Trump's attack was carried out without the approval of Congress. When Obama sought to attack for Assad's use of chemical weapons in 2013, he tried to get approval, but did not. This led him to pursue a more diplomatic option, working with Syria and Russia to have Assad remove his chemical weapons, which he supposedly did, which I thought was a much better action than war. This removal has also led many to question whether or not this attack is legitimate. Additionally, with Assad in a huge forward surge in the Civil War, using chemical weapons would only make thing worse for him internationally. Trump's attack comes as a direct contradiction to when he warned Obama not to attack Syria, and also to when he said Obama would bomb Iran or Libya to increase his poll numbers, which he has now done himself. As this continues to unfold, it remains to be seen what exactly happens. One can only hope that it is not war.
But, as if the attack on Syria wasn't bad enough, Trump is also sending warships towards North Korea in response to concerns over its weapons program. With a President who ran on the premise of being less hawkish than his opponent, something I was never fully convinced of, but praised nonetheless, it is clear that he is going to use force to demonstrate American might, be it wise or not.