What is Trump’s strategy in Syria?

Zach Mueth, Staff Writer

Donald Trump can be described with many different words, but to use the phrase “cool and calculated” would be inaccurate at best. His extremely questionable response to the April 4 chemical weapons use in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria is just one more example of this.

The President chose to shoot first and ask questions later, launching 59 tomahawk missiles into a Syrian airfield on April 6 and spending the days that followed scratching his head while repeatedly asking those around him what Bashar al-Assad’s motive to gas civilians could possibly be. A very good question indeed, Mr. President.

To better understand why the April 6 airstrikes are questionable requires taking a step back for a moment to consider a few of the oddities and hypocrisies that surround both the chemical attacks and Trump’s action against Syria.

Now first, let’s get one thing straight, there is little doubt that Assad is a terrible leader who has committed countless atrocities. However, militarily, the Assad regime has recently been managing victories against their rebel counterparts, most notably in reclaiming the cities of Aleppo and Homs. Furthermore, the Syrian government’s negotiations with the U.N. were going favorably.

Is Assad really foolish enough to risk that progress? Is he desperate to win at any cost? Perhaps, but it’s more likely that Putin is pulling the strings and making his puppet Syria dance.  

Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly maintained the stance that the U.S. would not make war in Syria under his leadership. Why the sudden 180 degree turn? Does he actually care about the lives of “helpless men, women, and children” from a country whose refugees are not even allowed in to the U.S.?

Here is what was written on Trump’s famous Twitter account in August 2013 following the chemical attack in Damascus: “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.”

Before ordering the April 6 bombing, Trump did not receive Congressional approval, or U.N. approval. Hypocrisy aside, the Trump airstrikes enter into a murky area of the law. However, legal or illegal, the fact that any president can so easily throw $60 million worth of missiles around like that should raise some eyebrows.

This all came days after news was breaking of Erik Prince’s secret meeting on Jan. 11 in the United Arab Emirates with a Russian considered to be “close” to Vladimir Putin. For those who don’t know, Prince is the founder of the notorious Blackwater mercenary group, an acclaimed contributor of some $250,000 to the Trump campaign and last, but not least, Betsy DeVos’ brother.Yep, you heard right. Trump probably would not mind sweeping that little tidbit under the rug.

The point here is that there are still too many questions and Trump is suddenly playing judge, jury, and executioner towards Syria without Congressional approval or confirmation of U.S. suspicions. The whole situation reeks of foul-play.

Prior to the Syria attack Trump’s approval rating was hovering right around 36 percent. No president before Trump has reached such a low approval rating this fast. Historically, approval ratings tend to go up after a president takes action against an international conflict.

Keep in mind that we are talking about the guy who spent over a decade as the host of “The Apprentice.” A man whose life has revolved around ratings. The airstrikes were certainly an opportunity for the Trump administration to pump those numbers up.

Was this a muscle flex for the Chinese leader that was meeting with Trump during the chemical attacks and subsequent missile strikes? A subtle threat to keep North Korea in line? These were benefits, but it is doubtful that they were the overall goal.

In a time where ties between Trump and Russia are being extensively questioned, this is a very convenient chance for the two pals to paint a different picture.

Don’t be fooled though, this is an act. Merely a façade to distract and confuse. This is exactly what each of these leaders want, a belief that relations between the two countries are at a serious low. A chance to point the finger and use each other as the scapegoat for foreign policy problems.

The last question I pose is . . . who benefits most from the gassing in Khan Sheikhoun? The answer is not Assad, or even the Syrian rebels. But it could very well be Trump and Putin.