On Thursday April 6, President Trump interrupted his regularly scheduled retreat to balmy Mar-a-Lago in South Beach, Florida, to address the nation on his recently ordered missile strike on a Syrian airfield. Evidence indicated that the Syrian government had ordered a chemical attack on its own people. “It is [a] vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said. “We hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will in the end prevail.”
In the hours that followed, pundits, politicians, and media outlets fell over themselves heaping praise on the President. On CNN, Fareed Zakaria practically forgave the President all of his shortcomings. “I think Donald Trump became President of the United States,” he gushed.
It was as if 59 Tomahawk missiles fired from the deck of a ship meant we now had a commander-in-chief ably steering the ship-of-state; as if somehow this single action indicated a coherent foreign policy, one that might help us navigate what Trump called “the challenge of our very troubled world.”
If anything, Trump’s missile strike and the outpouring of praise that followed confirm two worrisome things.
The first of these is that this Administration has no coherent foreign policy. On the campaign trail, Trump said he wanted the U.S. to “stay out of Syria.” Since the missile strike, Trump has offered no roadmap as to where his actions might lead. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had some tough words for Russia, little more.
Now we’re on to other things: saber rattling with North Korea; the Iran nuclear deal.
The President has tweeted nothing about Syria since April 8.
From Trump, the silence is deafening.
To be sure, his Twitter feed had plenty in the way of aggrandizement and self-praise immediately following the missile strike. If your appetite demands jingoism, you’ll find there a feast of American flags and military uniforms.
But lacking any semblance of coherence, we (and the rest of the world) are left to conclude that the only principal to which our foreign policy adheres is that there is no principal.
That hardly seems a recipe for “peace and harmony.”
Second, the outpouring of praise lavished on President Trump in the immediate wake of his April 6 announcement confirms that in our desperation for some semblance of “normalcy” from this man, we remain willing to grade his performance on a far-too-generous curve.
It cannot be that President Trump launches 59 Tomahawk missiles and we forgive and forget his too-many-to-count trespasses.
“If there was anything that Syria did,” Eric Trump recently told The Daily Telegraph, “it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie.”
That cannot be the standard to which we hold this President.
Andrew T. Jarboe
Jamaica Plain resident