Trump’s habits of making off the cuff remarks without regard for the consequences has long agitated tensions in the United States and abroad. He’s unabashedly frayed diplomatic ties with other countries, thinking that a brash, devil-doesn’t-care attitude will ultimately save the day.
But that was then, and this is 2018. Trump spoke recently at an Ohio rally, claiming that the US military would withdraw from Syria “very, very soon. ” That following Saturday, a chemical attack near Damascus killed at least 40 people.
Republican Senator John McCain has rekindled his vendetta with the president, saying his comments “emboldened” Assad. I’d agree with that assessment, since many countries have stepped up their authoritarian impulses in response to presidential apathy. Of course, none of this encourages an interventionist approach since the terrible strategies often employed by the US military often result in civilian casualties, but what it does highlight is Trump’s flippant approach to politics, both domestic and international. The long implicit argument made by conservatives is that his tweets occur in a vacuum, and as such shouldn’t be restricted. The chemical attack in Syria killed dozens of people. While there are ultimately other factors that contributed to the chemical attack, due to Trump’s lack of experience, surrounding himself with those that also lack experience, he often underestimates how much his words, when coupled with presidential authority, actually matter.
As the US readies its response to what happened in Syria, we’re left wondering how this will all play out. Trump might’ve referred to the Syrian leader as “Animal Assad,” but the pattern is that his humanitarian words often ring hollow. Reacting to casualties in part caused by your own careless words tossed out into the world with shock won’t undo anything, and in most cases will only cheapen your words when another disastrous event like this happens in the future. And it will.
Russia has much invested in the Syrian conflict, and sees the US as inconsistent and weak. Oscillating between harsh words on the domestic front, and clumsy, insincere words expressing humanitarian horror when it comes to the international stage, the US is experiencing a shrinking influence. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, given the countless blunders perpetuated by the US government, but that influence could be wielded much more deftly, and used in a way that minimizes foreign causalities.
And sure, former President Barack Obama didn’t have a brilliant strategy in Syria, even though a deal removing Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons occurred under his administration. Despite that deal, Assad continued to murder Syrians with chemical weapons. This goes to show that the United States has long fumbled its hand in Syria, advertising a form of diplomacy that ultimately doesn’t solve the problem. It’s hard to say what the answer is exactly, much like Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s flighty and authoritarian leader, Assad has no problem with agreeing to terms and then either finding loopholes, or simply defying them outright. Vladimir Putin also has no qualms with a sociopathic manipulation of global politics, taking advantage of whatever occurs in Syria to sustain his influence in that region. Adding Trump and newly minted National Security Adviser John Bolton to the mix? This won’t end well, and Syrians are caught in the middle.