Trump Follows Obama Rulebook, Strikes Syria Over Chemical Weapons Red Line
In what history books will one day record as a supreme instance of political irony, President Donald Trump is being lauded by leaders around the world for deploying a military strike across western Syria. This strike occurred yesterday in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons and is also known as the infamous “red line” set by Barack Obama in 2012 which would justify the use of American military force.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime,” Obama said to a room full of journalists almost six years ago, “but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau issued a statement in support of the strikes, as did Turkish President Erdogan. The move even received tepid support from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who called the action by a military coalition formed of American, British, and French forces, “appropriate.”
Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad ignored Obama’s warning in 2012. The Syrian President deployed sarin gas to the rebel-held territory of Ghouta in 2013. The aftermath also involved then Secretary of State John Kerry who brokered a deal with a Russian ambassador to have Assad forfeit the remainder of his chemical weapons. Given Assad’s subsequent use of chemical weapons since Barack Obama left office, it has become apparent that chemical weapons have remained in the hands of the Assad regime.
Before his election, Trump repeatedly made the case that military action in Syria would be a mistake. At points during his administration, Barack Obama said military action in Syria would be justified if Assad crossed the red line imposed by international law. Given Congressional reluctance to approve the use of force, Obama employed a diplomatic solution to deal with Assad’s crossing of the line, which is impossible to view as effective in retrospect.
Meanwhile, Trump’s strike has been met with approval from world allies, condemnation from Russia, and quiet approval from even his most ardent political opponents Congress. The Obama policy backfired on the president who wrote it, and earned political points for the president who originally rejected it.