“Mogul,” President Trump’s secret service codename, seems more fitting now than ever before. Last week he made the boldest move of his presidency and in doing so, showed Americans, and the world, that he means business.
In the early hours of the morning last Thursday, 59 Tomahawk missiles were sent to the Al-Sharyat air base in Homs, Syria. The base is where U.S. intelligence believes the Syrian planes used in Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack had flown from.
On Tuesday, April 4, the Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, allegedly conducted a chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in the province of Idlib in northwestern Syria. It is believed that at least 70 people were killed, including 20 children. Sarin, a nerve agent which is banned under international law, was the suspected chemical used in the attack on Assad’s own people.
Seemingly contradicting his earlier stance on intervention in Syria, Trump ordered the strike on the Syrian military air base. He explained his decision stating, “It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” Trump continued by saying, “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.” He also cited seeing the graphic images of children killed in Tuesday’s chemical attack as a contributing factor in his decision.
Despite the apparent shift in stance, however, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured reporters that the operation did not denote a “change in our policy or our posture in Syria.”
Careful precautions were notably followed throughout the mission, including notifying various governments prior to the attack, including the U.K., Russia, Jordan and Israel, using unmanned aircraft and striking during hours of low activity.
According to CNN, “the strike took place at 8:40 p.m. ET (3:40 a.m. local time), when there would have been minimal activity at the base. It targeted aircraft, aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and ‘the things that make the airfield operate.’” The Syrian Armed Forces claim six people were killed.
In a statement from the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin labelled Thursday’s airstrike as “an act of aggression” and concluded that it had “dealt a serious blow to Russia-U.S. relations.” The Syrian government also condemned the strike, describing it as “a disgraceful act.”
Not surprisingly, criticism did not come exclusively from abroad. Americans, including Republican Sen. Rand Paul, shared strong critiques of the move. While many of the critics found issue with Trump’s departure from his campaign promises, others such as Paul, focused on the legality of the matter. Paul said, “The president needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate.”
Although many were quick to question the legality of the air strikes, according to the War Powers Act of 1973, the President can engage in an armed conflict without the consent of Congress. However, it would be wise for Trump to consult Congress in the future.
Trump’s decision did elicit support, and in some cases even praise, from many unlikely sources, including: Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. In a joint statement by McCain and Graham, they said, “Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs.”
Remarkably, support even came from both sides of the aisle in statements from notable Democrats including House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Pelosi said in her statement that, “Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.” She importantly added that, “If the President intends to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, he must to come to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force which is tailored to meet the threat and prevent another open-ended war in the Middle East.”
Even more significantly, there was another unexpected source of support. Shortly after news broke of the strike, Syrians began enthusiastically tweeting their support for Trump. According to the BBC, “Arabs on social media are showering President Donald Trump with thanks and praise after he ordered the first direct U.S. military action against Syrian government forces. Some Arab social media users started referring to the president as Abu Ivanka – Father of Ivanka, as a sign of respect and endearment.” In taking direct action against Assad, which many remarked as something they “never thought” would happen, Trump did “what no cowardly Arab ruler could do.” A London-based Syrian tweeted, “For the first time in six years, the Assad regime has been held accountable for its crimes.”
Governments which support the U.S.’s actions include: the U.K., France, Germany, Israel and Australia. Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull called Assad’s chemical attack a “shocking war crime.”
Ultimately, the decision to attack the Al-Sharyat air base was less transparent than people would have wanted, however, the circumstances surrounding it and the support it has received suggest that it was justified.
Mark Levin, a well-known and respected conservative voice, echoed the sentiment shared by many proud Americans: “The rest of the world now knows that we have a real commander in chief. Our allies are thrilled, our enemies are nervous. That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.”
Trump’s vocal critics have long portrayed him as childish and inept. An easy target of criticism due to his outlandish personality, Trump has not been taken seriously since he swaggered onto the political scene almost two years ago. His decisive action on Thursday, however, reminded Americans, and the world, that he’s the boss.