There is nothing in the world more dangerous than an American president watching television. Donald Trump last night followed Ronald Reagan in 1982 and George Bush in 2001 as an isolationist turned interventionist in the Middle East. His past pragmatism towards Syria’s Assad regime and its Russian backers underwent a 180-degree turn as 59 American missiles rained down on a Syrian airbase. Welcome back to mission creep.
American military strike hits airbase in Syria in retaliation for what US president called ‘horrible chemical weapons attack’ in Idlib
Breaking from dinner with the Chinese leader, Trump spoke of his reaction to “slow and brutal deaths”, choking bodies and beautiful babies. He three times invoked God. He had been moved to act, he said, because Assad’s “attack on children had a big impact on me”. As for Russia’s role in the attack, Trump’s secretary of state said it was “either complicit or incompetent”.
Any follower of the atrocity-ridden war in Syria will accept that Assad’s military machine deserved more than verbal reproof for its continued use of chemical weapons. This was in defiance of the rules of war and specific pledges to abandon them. But given that Russia will not curb Assad and indicated a veto on any UN reaction, the world has sometimes to admit its inability to make a constructive response.
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