Crossed Lines: On President Trump's War on Disapproval

Saam Niami Jalinous

Ella Larsen

Ella Larsen

On Thursday, April 6, 2017, The United States committed an act of war against the Syrian head of state President Bashir al-Assad for his use of chemical weaponry against Syrian civilians. According to The White House, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were aimed and launched towards an airfield in Syria. The Russian military was informed of the action prior to the act, as to not hit any Russian planes. These airfields were not bases for holding chemical weaponry.

This is the first time The White House has ordered military action against the Syrian government, and the first major military operation by the Trump administration. Many in congress have been quick to praise the President for his swift action against the use of chemical weaponry, citing President Obama’s failure to hold to his “red line” statement against the use of chemical weaponry. Others in congress have been critical of this level of militarization, including Senator Rand Paul, who said, “The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution.”

The legality of the operation will be in question; a major operation against a world government requires congressional approval. According to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the President must inform congress within 48 hours of committing military forces, and cannot maintain forces for more than 60 days. Because the legality and logistics of military operations have been stretched in the last twenty years due to the United States’ soft-power in the Middle East, the legality and legitimacy of this operation will reveal themselves over time.

One thing is clear: President Donald Trump has made known to the world that he will not stand for chemical weaponry. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is indisputable that Bashir al-Assad’s use of chemical weaponry on April 5 on a rebel-held province in northern Syria that killed at least 85 people, including 20 children, was barbaric and inhumane. This is not the first time Assad has used such force in the past. He clearly saw no long-term repercussions from the use of chemical weaponry after President Obama made no moves to back his "red line" statement on military operations against chemical weaponry. Whether a Trump supporter or not, the act has distinguished the controversial president as having an intolerance for human rights abuses, and now shows he is unwilling to back down in the face of international instability for the sake of ringing such sentimentalities true.

However, when put into perspective with the President's rhetoric on Muslim's and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's unfriendly views on Middle Easterner's, staunch skepticism is necessary. It was a quick act to protect Syrian's against Assad's government. Because President Vladimir Putin has been a great supporter of Assad's regime, and Trump himself, it is interesting President Trump would have such a strong stance in favor of the Syrian people. One could argue the President is responding to his fast dropping poll numbers, especially given that he demanded that President Obama not attack Syria. Or, the President could be attempting to distract the American people from the damning evidence against the people in his administration and their ties with Russia. Because of the potential conflict of relations between the White House and the Kremlin, the airstrikes could dissuade the public from believing in possible collusion. Not only this, but President Trump's initial reaction to the use of chemical weaponry was not criticism for the Assad regime, or heartbreak over the civilians choking to death at the hands of their own government, but blame on President Obama for his failure to act in the region over chemical weaponry. 

It is unclear at this moment what President Trump plans to do with President Assad, and if he plans to overthrow the Syrian government, which would bring massive instability to the already failed region. The short-term implications would be horrific in terms of further Syrian displacement and a grand addition to the refugee crisis. The long-term, however, would not be as concerning due to the already dwindling power of the Syrian government.

The broader implications could be catastrophic. If Assad is overthrown, a power vacuum would be created similar to that of Iraq after Saddam Hussein. The potential for conflict between The United States, Russia, and Iran could prove to be detrimental to the region and society. Until that time comes, it is necessary to watch the President and understand the extent of his motives.