Trump’s Syria Strike Is Not a Very Big Deal

Carlos M. Vazquez/U.S. Navy via ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


I know I pretty much said this in the previous post, but it bears repeating: what President Trump did tonight was bog ordinary. He called it a “targeted” attack on Syria and the Pentagon called it “proportional.” It was precisely the kind of limited strike American presidents are addicted to when public opinion requires them to demonstrate anger over something or other, and it’s precisely the language every president uses to describe them. Russia will issue a pro forma denunciation, and the Syrians will rebuild their airfield. In a couple of weeks it will all be forgotten.

Don’t make too much of this unless Trump goes further. It doesn’t prove that his foreign policy instincts have changed, or that he’s demonstrated resolve and decisiveness. He’s merely done the smallest, safest, most ordinary thing American presidents do in circumstances like this.

UPDATE: I guess I should clarify a bit. I don’t mean that a military strike like this isn’t important. I mean only that pundits and the press shouldn’t treat it like a huge change in Trump’s foreign policy, or in American foreign policy in general. American presidents do this kind of stuff all the time, and Trump was always more likely to do it than most. Remember, he ran as “the most militaristic person you will ever meet” and promised to “bomb the shit out of ISIS.”

It’s Obama who was the unusual one, resisting enormous pressure to get involved in Syria. Trump is proving himself to be yet another follower of bipartisan foreign policy conventional wisdom.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate