Just about four years ago, President Obama faced a major humanitarian crisis in Syria. Bashar al-Assad had brutally gassed his own people in a civil war that continues to ignore all conventions and rules of warfare. Assad also ignored Obama's infamous "red line," baiting the newly re-elected president to make good on his pledge to attack. In the end, Obama decided instead to broker a deal to dismantle Assad's WMD stockpiles -- risking political damage all around.
An attack was averted, but Obama was predictably accosted from his right for appeasing Assad rather than bombing the shit out of the despot's bases and assets. Oh, and there's the added detail that clearly Assad continues to retain chemical weapons.
While I'm not entirely opposed to Donald Trump's decision to hit the Al Shayrat airbase with roughly 60 Tomahawk missiles, I don't think I'm speaking for myself when I say I'm opposed to a weirdo New York socialite turned realty show punchline named Donald Trump doing it. Yes, it feels good to avenge the deaths of the Syrians in Aleppo and elsewhere. But is Trump doing the right thing at the right time? Is he smart enough to make the right choices here? His record indicates no way.
Trump, who gets much of his news from Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, doesn't seem to have a plan beyond Thursday night's attack. We're not going out on a limb by wondering whether he possesses the expertise in the region to even know who the players are. We don't know whether he can find Aleppo on a map. Does he know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims? Whatever he knows or doesn't know, the results of the unilateral U.S. attack against Syria are typically harrowing.
Plan or not, in the wake of the U.S. missile strikes, Assad continues to use the same airbase -- after we attacked it. ABC News:
Two Syrian jets took off today from the air base that was hit by U.S. missiles and carried out strikes on areas under ISIS control in the countryside of eastern Homs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian government responded to Thursday night's U.S. strike on its Shaayrat air base by quickly fixing the base and allowing the two planes to take off from there, the human rights organization said.
A U.S. official said Syrian planes took off from the base today but did not confirm the action taken by the plane.
Reuters, meanwhile, reported that Syrian planes launched from the base might've been used for airstrikes in the Homs region. We also know that the runways at the airbase are undamaged.
Making matters worse, Syrian state media reported seven civilian deaths including four children, making Trump's lament about the "little babies" seem even emptier now than when he initially said it.
On top of that, there's an investigation underway to determine whether Russian military personnel helped to carry out the gas attack earlier this week. Fox News reported that 12 to 100 Russian airmen or soldiers were on the ground at the airbase.
All in all, you had one job, Mr. Trump.
So far, we don't have any indication whether Trump will continue to engage in strikes against military targets. We don't have any indication whether he supports regime change. We have no idea whether he plans to deploy more troops to Syria -- an action he already began weeks ago, quietly and without any announcements.
Frankly, I'd rather have Obama stepping back from further Middle East entanglements than Trump bungling and botching his way through a potentially disastrous episode of American interventionism in yet another turbulent nation in this no-win region.