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COLUMN: New approach to Syria is not different



President Trump knows there are very few things he can do to earn himself praise from his typical critics. But there is at least one thing — military action.

A year ago, when the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base after a chemical attack by the Syrian government, Trump found himself acting in accordance with the wishes of some of his usual political opponents, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and even Hillary Clinton.

The situation repeated itself this weekend when Trump, this time with France and the United Kingdom, ordered 105 missiles to be launched against three Syrian government targets.  

McCain and others endorsed the action. But this time there was more resistance from Democrats and Republicans, for good reasons. 

These strikes are great tools for making the president look good. He gets to pose as a protector of the Syrian people, he gets to follow through on some of his tough talk and he gets to contrast his follow-through against former president Barack Obama’s inaction after the alleged Syrian government chemical attack in 2013.

Actually, the difference between Obama’s choice in 2013 and the Trump’s choice this weekend is that Obama followed the Constitution, while Trump did not.

Obama waited on authorization from Congress to strike Syria, as the Constitution requires, but it never came. Trump went forward with his actions without waiting for this congressional approval. 

However, there are more than just Constitutional issues.

Of course, most people would be shocked and outraged by the footage of children dying agonizingly in Douma, Syria, the site of the chemical attack. 

But to formulate a sensible strategy, that emotional response needs to be combined with sober analysis.

Trump's actions this weekend and last April further establish the use of chemical weapons as a “red line,” which was first established by Obama in 2012. 

Chemical attacks are always horrific to see. However, it doesn’t make moral or political sense to draw such a sharp distinction between them and conventional attacks of a similar magnitude.

The majority of civilians who have died in Syria have died from conventional weapons. Their deaths are not any less important because of how they died.

Americans shouldn’t fail to see our government’s own hand in this. The U.S. has heavily bombed non-regime targets in Syria for years. Last year the U.S.'s civilian casualty rate in Syria surpassed Russia’s rate.  

Airwars, a journalist-led transparency project, documented a sharp rise in civilian deaths from U.S. bombing after Trump took office and the battle against ISIS heated up.

This, among other reasons, shows that Trump’s public displays of sympathy for Syrian civilian suffering are a total sham.

Trump is absurdly claiming to act on behalf of Syrians’ welfare when the U.S. has taken in a whopping 11 Syrian refugees this year

He has even outright banned Syrians from traveling to our country.

Because of all of this, there is no reason to think the result of this weekend’s strikes will be any better than the result of the strikes last year.

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