President Trump is widely anticipated to take action in response to a recent chemical attack on civilians that occurred in Syria, just days ago. However, the expected move is exposing deep divides among Trump’s base, and his foreign policy advisors too.
Trump was elected as a notably isolationist, and anti neo-con voice in the Republican party. However, as he has pulled hawkish advisors from previous administrations, many are worried that Trump will set America on a path to yet another Middle East war.
“Strategically, much as I can sympathize with anyone who says the Middle East is just a vale of tears and we should stay out, we find that when we do that we get dragged back in on more adverse terms,” explained Bush-era Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz.
“Our enemies certainly seemed to have figured out that they have interests there,” he further added.
“The centerpiece of ‘America First’ is that overseas engagement is only going to happen where there is a vital national security interest of the United States,” stated one GOP operative, who is in tune with the base’s discontent with another possible war.
Many Trump supporters simply don’t believe that the US national interest demands action in Syria, or at least it hasn’t been articulated convincingly.
However, notable war hawk, and newly minted head of the National Security Council, John Bolton tweeted (in February) his position on the Syria question; “It should surprise no-one that the Syrian government continues to develop new chemical weapons.” He further added that the global public “hasn’t done enough to deter this continuing behavior.”
Paul Wolfowitz was one of many, on both sides of the aisle, that praised Trump’s measured response to the first chemical attack last year, where the US launched multiple cruise missiles at key military installations across Syria.
“I’d be shocked if Bolton was pushing military engagement. There’s a whole part of the Trump movement that looks at Bolton with very suspicious eyes. Bolton is really auditioning here for a number of different audiences,” said a source within the White House.
On Monday, President Trump expressed distress about the apparent chemical attack on Douma. Trump described it as “horrible” and “atrocious” during brief comments to journalists before a Cabinet conference.
However, given the high probability of an overwhelming western response to the use of chemical weapons – it is strange that Assad’s forces (who are on the verge of victory) would invite such calamity by using banned weapons that they don’t need to deploy in order to win the civil war.
Conservative, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute added, “At the very least, we should not be pulling out of Syria. We should be working to organize allies on the ground and to empower those who want to join the fight against both ISIS and Assad.”
When asked if she was content with President Donald Trump’s tactic to the Middle East in general, Pletka answered in the ngative. “I think we need to engage more in Syria, more in Iran, more in Yemen,” she stated. “The President has said that he is no Barack Obama when it comes to meeting these challenges. That remains to be seen.”
Even liberals are split on the question of further involvement in Syria. “Syria is a failing state that has not produced regime change,” said National Security Policy Vice President at the liberal Center for American Progress, Rudy DeLeon. “As long as ISIS is defeated, or no longer consequential, do the Americans depart or is there some kind of stabilization effort?”
Do you agree with Rudy DeLeon? Sometimes politics makes for strange allies…