As you know, Donald Trump ordered a massive missile strike on a Syrian airbase last night, as a response to civilian deaths on Tuesday in what was alleged to be a chemical attack by the Syrian government on a rebel-held town. The strike, which Trump justified with repeated references to the “babies” killed on Tuesday, is broadly perceived as a complete turnaround of Trump’s earlier vehement determination not to get involved in Middle East wars. The strike is being applauded by neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, and Israelis too– as well as by mainstream Democrats.
Meanwhile, American realists and leftists and conservatives are deeply critical of the attack. Here are some of the reactions…
Russia has condemned the strikes, Syria says that the strikes were prompted by a false propaganda campaign saying it was responsible for the chemical attack on Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a series of tweets last night supporting Donald Trump:
In both word and action, @POTUS sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision.
Israel hopes this resolve in face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions resonates not only in Damascus but in Tehran, Pyongyang & elsewhere
Israel’s former ambassador was also impressed.
New sheriff's in town. US attack in Syria sends message to the entire world that America's back. Our common enemies need to fear
— Michael Oren (@DrMichaelOren) April 7, 2017
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer applauded the strikes last night– “Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.”– but he urged the Trump administration to come up with a “strategy.” Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, also praised the attacks as “proportional.”
But Connecticut’s Chris Murphy was critical of the strike on MSNBC today, as pointless and illegal. From his twitter feed:
The hypocrisy of our “red lines” – our refugee ban locks Syrians into their dystopia, our support to Saudis helps cause famine in Yemen.
Senator Bernie Sanders has been tweeting up a storm this morning:
I’m deeply concerned the strike in Syria could lead the U.S. back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East.
If the last 15 years have shown anything, it’s that such engagements are disastrous for American security, our economy and our people.
Former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who reputedly had favored stronger action by Obama in Syria, earlier tweeted reports saying Assad was responsible for the chemical attack (including this article from Haaretz) and a John McCain speech on the attack: “Unless we act we’re going to see it again.” But now that Trump acted, Power has not commented.
Hard to know what to say about a bombing raid that appears to be part of no coherent strategy whatsoever
Pure power types love it though. Clintonite Paul Begala, who spoke at AIPAC 10 days ago, praised the strike, said Obama should have done it. Clintonite Anne-Marie Slaughter echoed the thought:
Donald Trump has done the right thing on Syria. Finally!! After years of useless handwringing in the face of hideous atrocities.
— Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM) April 7, 2017
the Trump administration can truly be said to have started only now. The president has been chief executive since January 20, but this week he acted also as Commander in Chief. And more: He finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.
This was unexpected: He had appeared to say, during the campaign, that this kind of global leadership role was just too expensive. We were tired of it, tired of having others take advantage of us. We could not solve all the world’s problems.
But the strike at Syria had at its heart precisely that kind of global leadership, to enforce the century-old ban on chemical warfare—in the interest of decency and peace. His remarks ended with words that many predecessors, from Wilson to Roosevelt, and Kennedy to Reagan, might have spoken: “as long as America stands for justice then peace and harmony will prevail.”
Other Israeli leaders sought the strike. Netanyahu’s rightwing partner/rival Naftali Bennett on Facebook posted an image of children stricken by an alleged chemical attack and called for action. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the takeaway of inaction on Syria is that Israel must “rely only on itself.” Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has an op-ed in Jerusalem Post in which she brings in the Holocaust. “Never again” has not been learned, she says:
“The children of Syria are the children of the world – and they are looking at us. Will the world stand idly by as their blood is shed? Can moderate elements still expect that in times of trouble there will be those who will end the horror — or is it better to be on the side of evil? Now is a moment when interests and morality fuse: it is time to act accordingly.”
Israel has itself attacked Syrian government positions in recent weeks, evidently to try and thwart Iranian shipments to Hezbollah, the militia group that is fighting on Assad’s side.
Of course when Syria crossed Obama’s red line in 2013 and the president refused to strike, Donald Trump was on his side:
“President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your powder’ for another (and more important) day!”
America-firsters are disturbed that the impulsive president would so betray his posture. One writes on twitter, “May the Syrian soldiers we just murdered on behalf of Al-Qaeda Rest In Peace.” White nationalist Richard Spencer has declared this the “Trump Betrayal.” “I am ready to condemn Donald Trump,” he says in a video.
Realist Stephen Walt points out, with hundreds retweeting, that the strike will achieve nothing.
Boy, didn’t take long for
#Trump to discover what Clinton, Bush, & Obama learned: air strikes easy way to look tough w/o fixing anything.
Former ambassador Chas Freeman conveys a similar idea, by email:
What last night’s cruise missile strike tells the world is that we have an administration that shoots first and asks questions later, led by a president who is emotionally affected by television and impulsively responsive to its narratives. No one knows what policy lies behind this set of strikes. No one has asked “and then what?”
Iran’s Foreign Minister points out that Assad and the Russians are fighting ISIS in Syria.
Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaida & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups.
Conservative realist Scott McConnell concurs:
I wish he wasn’t right, but can see no factual flaw in statement. Iran the one ME country where genuine pro US sympathy after 9/11… Besides Israel.
Remember what John Kerry said last year: that Russia only intervened in Syria to keep the Assad government from falling to ISIS.
The left: James North points out that a no-fly zone in Syria is impossible to maintain militarily and warns that the “foreign policy elites” are making bad decisions out of an ability to inflict damage on people thousands of miles away. Glenn Greenwald is dyspeptic about American naivete:
Single most amazing thing about US discourse is how people are continually willing to believe humanitarianism is the goal of new US wars.
Ken Klipperstein sounds the cynical note:
Regime change in…
-Syria: good maybe?
This is also good, from Appelbaum:
9th October 2012 https://t.co/22v4JSyxVN
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) April 7, 2017
From Israel’s Government Press Office. Happy days:
US Vice President Mike Pence, this afternoon (Friday, 7 April 2017), telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and thanked him – on behalf of US President Donald Trump – for Israel’s strong support for the American action in Syria.
To be updated… Thanks to Allison Deger.