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Syria Airstrike: A Bold Political Move and the Unconnected Pieces

For a long time now, disorder, chaos and the smell of death have pervaded the Middle East and completely destabilized the region and taken the souls of men, women and children. The recent chemical attack follows another similar attack in 2013. These events characterize the bloodshed of the Syrian civil war.

The infamous toxic gas attack, took the lives of at least 70 people while at least 100 were injured. The compound, although not yet identified, was possibly Sarin, a lethal mass destruction agent which results in instant lung suffocation and muscle paralysis.

As a response to the brutal attack, Donald J. Trump hit the responsible Syrian air base with more than 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles and commented: “My fellow Americans: On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

What nobody noticed

Nonetheless, as everyone focused on the missile attack, details prior to the event were unnoticed for the most part. A few days before, North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Rex Tillerson, the American Secretary of State, said, “North Korea launched yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile,” it began. “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” At the time, this statement left most journalists, and most Americans, puzzled.

On a separate note, it is important to recall the statement made by President Trump regarding the role played by China in the regulation of North Korea. Throughout his campaign, Trump emphasized that China had “total control” of North Korea. Interestingly, the Chinese president Xi Jinping happened to be on US soil while Trump launched the airstrike on the Syrian base. To be exact, the airstrike occurred right after dinner.

Putting it all together

Trump’s Syria airstrike could easily be perceived as a demonstration of the GOP military platform “peace through strength.” By attacking the Syrian base, Trump is showing his administration’s willingness to use military strength when needed and is delivering a message to North Korea. Trump is telling the media, he is not Putin’s puppet. Admittedly what hurts his argument are the daily news stories of ties between his associates and the Kremlin.  Chemical attacks in the Syrian civil war will be reduced or not tolerated at all. Lastly, Trump is giving the president of China a live demonstration of what his administration can do and might do in order to keep North Korea in check. Whether any military measures against Pyongyang would be prudent remains to be seen.

Trump doubled down on his support for the King of Jordan who he recently spoke with. “I am deeply committed to preserving our strong relationship and to strengthening America’s long-standing support for Jordan.” Interesting, Jordan and all the Gulf States support the rebels which have long been fighting Assad.

World War III? No.

Trump did not work with Congress. Yes, this could just be one of Trump’s I do whatever I want “macho appeal” but, it could also have another interpretation. In today’s world, aggression against Syria by a country as powerful as the US is very unlikely to lead to war. In fact, Trump does not want war. Throughout his campaign, he said on multiple occasions that he wanted a military so big “we didn’t have to use it.” War for Trump at this point is extremely unlikely. But events can and do change on the ground.

A brilliant political move?

The move itself was probably the best political move Trump could have made. It drove attention away from the chaos of his administration (which he desperately needs) and possibly blurred the longstanding notion of connections between Trump and Russia while emphasizing Trump’s “Russia is fake news statement.” It expanded his support from more militaristic moderate Republicans like Senator John McCain. The ultimate winner is Donald J Trump.