On Thursday, April 6, United States President Donald Trump made an executive decision to bomb a Syrian airbase. This is a major landmark in Trump’s foreign policy within his first few months as commander in chief.
The strike came in response to a chemical attack a few days prior. Many speculate that under the authority of President Bashar al-Assad – despite his denial – Syrian military forces dropped chemical bombs on a rebel-held area. As a result of this attack, at least eighty-five individuals died, and many more were hospitalized for symptoms like writhing, choking, gasping, paralysis, spasms, unconsciousness, or foaming at the mouth.
This attack was the most detrimental on Syria since that of 2013, when over 1,000 people in Damascus died in a chemical attack using sarin, a banned toxin. Many suspect the poison of this attack was similar in nature, containing a nerve agent – a banned substance. Unlike the common chlorine gas attacks that have taken place in northern Syria previously, the effects of this attack were much more disturbing, with many of the victims being young children.
In response to the attack on Syria, President Trump initiated direct military action, despite his previous dismissal of American intervention in foreign affairs. He ordered the bombing of the base that contained the warplanes responsible for the chemical attack on the rebel-held territory. Fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched to carry this out.
Many wonder if Trump’s actions are justified. After all, he promoted a non-interventionist philosophy during his presidential campaign. Syria was a large step away from that idea; however, many think it may have been necessary. In an agreement four years ago, Syrian president Assad renounced the use of chemical weapons. However, much evidence from a declassified report from the National Security Council confirms the United States’ confidence in Assad’s responsibility for this attack.
NJIT’s Computer Science student Lawrence Gabriel says, “If it’s true that we had intelligence that Assad did it, then yes, I think [the bombing] was appropriate. It was definitely surprising… but this tells me that Trump won’t publicly announce a military move, and that he’ll intervene when innocent lives are killed by their government.”
Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war makes matters even more complex, being an ally to Assad. President Vladimir Putin denied the claim that Assad oversaw the use of chemical weapons. Because of Trump’s actions, Russia is suspending an agreement with the United States that allows the two nations to coordinate aircraft operations in Syria that serves to prevent accidental collisions between the nations’ respective aircraft.
Russia’s response may come as a warning to the Trump administration not to attack the Assad regime again. Tensions between America and Russia have always existed but have been increasingly strained this month. In the future, Lawrence believes that “Trump will stay away from Syria because of the threat by Russia.”
More recently, Trump has taken similar military action in bombing an ISIS target in Afghanistan. Although Donald Trump has served as president for only a few months, in the past several weeks he has made his approach to foreign policy very clear.
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