Exactly 100 years after the U.S. entered World War I, the current president decided to take action in one of the most contentious modern conflicts by ordering airstrikes in Syria April 6.
Only time will tell what global waves this action will cause, but by the looks of it, they have the potential to have a tsunami-level impact.
The conflict does not just involve Syria or even the U.S. and Syria. It also involves Russia—a strong military presence in Syria—and basically every country in the world because many countries have become places where Syrians have fled in search of refuge.
Usually at this point in my column, I would delve into the global politics of this issue and how Americans need to look outside their own bubble to see the ramifications of a decision like this. However, with this decision, Americans—especially those who now oppose these airstrikes—need to critically examine their own political beliefs before dissecting the meaning of these airstrikes in the context of the civil war in Syria and international politics overall.
The reality is, American politicians on both sides of the aisle have been in favor of airstrikes before and still are. Even Hillary Clinton called for airstrikes in Syria hours before President Donald Trump announced his decision. Reporters and political pundits from MSNBC and CNN have called the sight of the airstrikes “beautiful” and cited this as the moment Trump truly became the president.
It might sound grotesque and twisted to say this is a presidential quality, but it is not inaccurate. Trump’s decision was characteristic of a U.S. president.
However, because of Trump’s unpopularity—his approval rating is 35 percent, according to an April 5 Time Magazine article—it is not a shock that he has received flak. For Americans who already hate Trump, it is not a stretch to hate anything he does.
It is easy to call out the hypocrisy of Trump being apparently so moved by videos and photos of innocent people dying from chemical weapon attacks to send in airstrikes but apparently not moved enough to give humanitarian aid or to allow Syrian refugees into the U.S.
It is similarly easy to point out that Trump cannot spare a dime to save the environment, pay for education or even meals for the elderly in the U.S., but is willing to send airstrikes into Syria as he pleases.
What is not as easy is to recognize that these airstrikes are not “Trumpian,” they are American.
The fact that this decision represents Americans does not mean that it was the right decision. There is not enough bipartisan support, media praise and historical precedents to make this reaction morally justifiable.
The values and beliefs shown by these airstrikes are not ones that started with Trump, and they will likely not end with him either.
The only slightly positive outcome of this is for is these airstrikes to cause Americans of all political beliefs to consider the decisions of the politicians that represent them through a more moral and fair lens. But, there is no reason why Americans’ reality check should come at the price of innocent lives and, potentially, an all-out war.