“We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that’s not innocent; nor can we be passive when freedom is under siege.” – Ronald Reagan
In the wake of reports that Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons against Syrians, the United States launched over 50 missiles at a Syrian airbase. It marked some of the most serious action America has taken against Syria in recent years. The world has been watching with bated breath and debating the question: Was this the right move?
The conflict in Syria has been ongoing since 2011, and the United States has been involved to some extent since the early stages of the conflict. The Syrian Civil War began with protests against Bashar al Assad from people who were dissatisfied with his authoritarian rule and turned into armed conflict. America supplied Syrian fighters with non-lethal aid but largely stayed out of the conflict at first. Eventually, it began to provide more training and further aid to Syrian commanders before shifting their focus to attacking ISIS, which had emerged as a player in the Syrian conflict. However, the Obama administration was always loath to escalate operations in Syria, going as far as to cut a deal with Assad to remove chemical weapons instead of intervening militarily. Because Assad did not follow the parameters of the deal, it became clear that diplomacy was not an option with his regime.
The use of chemical weapons last week prompted the American missile attack and stands as the beginning of the next chapter in Syria. Assad has benefited from the cover of ISIS as the main threat in the region, but his regime is just as dangerous, if not more. Perhaps the biggest failure of the Obama administration was their inaction in Syria, which led to mass casualties and destruction. Although the Trump administration might not have the most foreign policy knowledge or a set doctrine, the action of Syrian intervention was a positive step. It establishes the United States clearly on the other side of the Syria-Russia alliance and shows that the United States will not be afraid to intervene when necessary. Our allies have supported this action because it shows that America is still a world leader and an engaged participant on the global stage. Additionally, the airstrike emphasizes to Russia that America is not to be taken lightly, even under an administration that has shown deference to the Russians.
Although the Trump administration has preached an isolationist foreign policy, its actions suggest more of a traditional globalist foreign policy. The Obama administration did not act sufficiently and quickly enough in Syria to combat the evils of Assad and it has resulted in a conflict that has dragged on for years. At the moment, the Trump administration may not have a solidly articulated foreign policy, but the action of military response to chemical weapon use is a step in the right direction, no matter the pretenses under which it was conducted.