The cruise missile strikes President Donald Trump launched in reprisal for Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapon attack in Syria are well within the norms of American foreign policy. But they fall far outside the stated boundaries of Trump’s foreign policy, and reflect an administration bereft of a consistent, considered approach to the world — an approach that would make America’s actions predictable to both our friends and enemies, and guide the commitments we’re willing to make in the event of escalation or reprisal.
What we are seeing, instead, is a foreign policy based on Trump’s gut reactions to the images flashing before him on cable news. And that’s dangerous.
Last week, despite Assad’s horrific, ongoing slaughter of his own people, the Trump administration was comfortable seeing him retain power. In March, Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, said, “Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
This was consistent with Trump’s long-held view on Syria, which was that America should stay the hell away. Unlike many Republicans, his criticism of President Barack Obama wasn’t for failing to follow through on infamous “red line” comments but for making them at all.
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