Shortly after ordering an illegal missile strike on a Syrian air base, Donald J. Trump took to the news with a speech expressing his dismay at the horror of the chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Assad regime:
“On Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al Assad launched a horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent. Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror. Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. 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 UN Security Council. Numerous previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all found and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies. Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syrian and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We asked for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who passed. And we hope as long as America stands for justice and peace and harmony will in the end prevail. Good night and God Bless America and the entire world.”
On the surface, his words sounded like those of a rational leader reacting to the horrific events that took the lives of over 85 people, many of whom were children. Unfortunately, despite the well-crafted speech which was designed to show a softer, more compassionate side of the President, the fact remains that any sensible person who has followed the civil war in Syria for the last six years would know this is not the first time that atrocities have allegedly been committed by the Assad regime. It’s thoroughly impossible to think that Mr. Trump, in office for around 80 days, has not received information from his military advisers on the realities of life on the ground in the war-torn nation.
It’s also slightly less than ironic that the sentiment in his speech echoes a tweet by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, days prior to the airstrikes he authorized.
As with most things Trump, the surface explanation is usually never the actual reason behind the things he says and does. In mere hours after the strike, the response from world leaders was rather supportive, with the obvious exceptions being from Syria, Russia, Iran and North Korea. While several Russian leaders made a variety of statements on the issue to express their displeasure at the move, many other things quickly became apparent:
- Regional partners such as NATO, the UN and countries which are allies, Russian military personnel were notified prior to the attack
- Oil prices began to surge as the threat of further regional instability could affect transport of oil drilled from the region
- Stock prices in companies such as Raytheon increased
Some of these issues in the aftermath of the strike are to be expected, such as the price of oil surging and stocks in weapons manufacturing companies like Raytheon. It is interesting to note, Mr. Trump owns stock in Raytheon. I wish I didn’t notice the irony, yet it’s there. The chart below from MarketWatch clearly indicates a spike in price in the hours of trading just after the airstrikes:
So all the compassionate words in the speech issued by Mr. Trump are the only things that were not met with an expected response: there is still an active ban on refugees from Syria, where the fighting and bloodshed has not been interrupted at all. In fact, in reports from ABC News, Syrian warplanes have resumed flying from the same airbase that was struck with 59 TOML missiles.
It’s so easy to feign concern for those “children of God” while doing absolutely nothing measurable to save them, and sealing their fate by not offering any refuge from the fighting. Especially while profiting as stock prices rise for weapons manufacturers. The kind words that were skillfully written, followed by the praise of many pundits and advisers over his response, at the end of the day are empty elements of sincerity.
Only time will tell how fully sincere (or not) Mr. Trumps words were, and whether they will ever be followed by true compassionate acts for the victims of the civil war in Syria. As the events continue to play out, much like with the RussiaGate investigation, there’s more under the surface of Trump’s swamp that remains to be seen and reviewed on the Syrian strike itself, and the actual motivations behind it. For now, it definitely appears that $100M spent on this action, with nothing accomplished against the Assad regime.