Trump’s Syria Strike Is Not a Very Big Deal

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

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


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.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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