Op-ed: Trump flips on Syria stance for all the wrong reasons

Senator James Sanders, Jr.


When Donald Trump was running for president, he promised to keep the United States out of wars. Specifically, out of the chaos of the Syrian conflict. Military intervention, whether in Iraq or Libya, was the old way of politics, according to Trump. That’s how George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did business.

Now, a U.S. fighter plane has shot down a Syrian jet. Moreover, we have an increasing number of boots on the ground there — fighting ISIS, which is also against the Syrian government. So, amazingly, Trump is not only getting involved in Syria, he is fighting on both sides.

War, after all, is politically useful. It distracts the public from unfriendly headlines. Trump’s Syria adventure began on April 7 with a pointless, but loud, missile strike against a Syrian government air base. What else was happening that week? Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor, was dominating headlines. He had just amended his originally fraudulent financial disclosure to say that he had taken money from the Russian government. Throwing a few missiles around not only distracted people, it made Trump seem tough on the Syrian government, a close ally of Russia.

By the way, don’t be fooled. Russia didn’t want Trump because Trump loves Russia. They wanted Trump because they thought he would be a terrible president of the United States, a country Vladimir Putin loathes for ruining Russia’s great power status. End of story.

More than a tactic for distraction, though, war is a way for a weak, un-loved leader who cannot win respect with good domestic policies, to win respect by force. A president involved in a war is a president we need to protect us, to lead us. As Plato famously described the tyrant, “he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.”

How else to explain Trump’s involvement in what can only be described as a quagmire? Fighting the Syrian government will entangle us not only with Russia but also with Iran. It is a myth that Iran is a danger to us. As shown by their willingness to limit their nuclear weapon development, the Iranians are willing to act reasonably. But Iran also supports the Syrian government, in large part because the Syrian government fights ISIS. Isn’t fighting ISIS the exact reason we would be involved in Syria to begin with?

It is an incoherent policy Trump himself does not understand. All he knows is that war makes him look strong. As we have seen innumerable times, that is all he cares about.

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