With two highly publicized and politicized military strikes in the Middle East, what seems to be the first test of President Trump’s military policy is shaping up to be a very interesting and defying expectation. From a military and political standpoint, these strikes were not only necessary but the best option available. While I hate war and see it as a complete waste, I still see the wisdom in the choices made.
As an aside, I think it’s important to note that the commander in charge in Afghanistan did not ask for nor require Trump’s approval. This was a decision that Trump had nothing to do with. Criticism of Trump for giving the order is misplaced. However, Trump did give military commanders in the region free reign. In the same way that I hold Obama responsible for the massive increase of bombings and drone strikes during his administration, I hold Trump responsible for the MOAB strike.
My primary approval of these strikes is because they were carried out against purely military targets. No civilians were in the area, not even civilian infrastructure was damaged in any way. Sometimes, ISIS fighters will take cover in an abandoned village and an airstrike is needed to destroy buildings once used by innocent civilians. Not so with the MOAB, only purely military targets were hit.
The killing of innocents is played up in ISIS propaganda, and having zero collateral damage is a step in the right direction to removing a motivating force for civilians to take up arms. There are reports of civilian casualties related to the airstrike, but the only source is Syrian state media. No independent source has any indication that civilians were hit, and Tomahawk missiles are able to be safely self-destructed if they go off-course and threaten civilians.
However, many of Trump’s supporters are unhappy, feeling betrayed. Trump was against all international intervention and ran on an America first platform yet intervened less than 100 days into his presidency. While I strongly support an isolationist foreign policy, measures must be taken against those who would use illegal weapons of war. Economic sanctions don’t accomplish much, people who flaunt international law need to know that consequences exist and the U.S. isn’t afraid to apply them. While America shouldn’t be the world police, we cannot simply stand by and watch with our hands in our pockets as innocents die en masse.
Internationally, the results have been positive. China is shifting on its policy regarding North Korea, and that is invaluable. The U.S. policy of “strategic patience” only halted things, only put off a problem that will need to be dealt with. North Korea’s most powerful ally is starting to edge back, knowing full well that all-out war would be catastrophic. To work towards solving the North Korean crisis without firing a shot even in the direction of North Korea is tremendous, something I wholeheartedly approve of. The situation in the Korean peninsula is so tense, any strikes on Korean soil for the purpose of sending a message would be a mistake.
While Trump was not directly involved in the Afghanistan strike, he was assuredly directly involved with the Syrian airfield and I believe the strike was carried out in such a way that shows Trump’s level-headedness as a decision-maker when it mattered the most.
Trump is out there. He’s a bombastic guy, a lover of big elaborate shows. Why didn’t he drop a MOAB on the airfield? 59 surgical strikes isn’t Trump’s style. One huge bomb, the biggest bomb, the best bomb, that’s the sort of thing that would be expected of Trump. A big show with little finesse and less subtlety.
Trump still went with the Tomahawks. A MOAB strike in Syria would have been a logistical nightmare, but that’s how many of his detractors would describe his presidency. Instead of going with the big statement and disregarding consequences, Trump trod the fine line between a restrained show of force and going completely over the top. I’m encouraged by this, and believe it demonstrates that Trump is a commander in chief not ruled by impulse, one who doesn’t make wildly rash decisions as many feared he would.