Friday, April 7, 2017

Question the motivations behind Trump’s attacks on Syria

Did Trump express real compassion, or is he trying to redeem his poor start as president?

The chemical attacks perpetrated by the Syrian government on its own people should not be ignored. An action so heinous like this needs an appropriate response.

Yet for a president so obsessed with his own image and perception, the assumption that Donald Trump's motivations behind the attacks in Syria are due partly to his own failures so far in the White House cannot be dismissed so easily.

This evaluation of the Trump presidency isn't entirely fictional. Already administration officials are doing their best to create a positive image of the president, as part of a so-called “leadership week” demonstrating his tough stances against Syria and other foreign powers.

That doesn’t sound like policy making that is based on restraint and weighing facts when making tough decisions. Rather, it sounds like the president is trying to use the Syrian missile strikes to his advantage, to make himself seem like a stronger leader.

And it seems to be working: several journalists who are supposed to be scrutinizing the president are instead fawning over his supposed leadership skills as a commander-in-chief.

Greg Grandin at the Nation puts it this way:
 With the sole exception of Chris Hayes, MSNBC turned into something like a Patriots Day Parade, with one guest after another crediting Trump for his decisiveness. Needless to say, CNN is worse.
Trump’s compassion on the matter is also questionable. Earlier this week when he said he was affected by the images of Syrian babies, he demonstrated empathy by describing their deaths as “an affront to humanity.” But just a year ago, Trump, in campaign mode, said that he would tell those same children they cannot come to the United States to seek asylum from Assad or terrorism in their nation.

“I can look in their faces and say 'You can't come,’” he said.

The ability for the media to shift so easily on Trump — going into full-on “wartime president” mode following his strikes on Syria — is terrifying stuff, and it shouldn’t be tolerated. As I said above, an actionable response was needed against Assad for what he did to his people. But that action needed a demonstrable rationale, presented to Congress, before Trump took action. Trump, from 2013, agrees:

Whether the actions taken against the Syrian government adhere to the conditions of jus ad bellum or not, the media needs to start asking the right questions here. Why didn’t Trump get Congressional approval? Will he seek it now? And what really motivated his actions this week?

I’m hoping that the media will do its job and get to the bottom of things. But I’m also worried that any attempts at digging for the truth here will be drowned out by chants of “USA! USA” — some of which will come from the media itself.

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