BY STEWART COARD – STAFF WRITER
On April 6th, President Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles launched at the Syrian air base holding the same planes used to carry out chemical attacks on civilians.
The move has spurred a great deal of controversy, with some extolling the president for taking action against Assad, while others despair at increased United States military action in the Middle East. Some have complained that the strikes in Syria contradict Trump’s campaign promises to reduce America’s role in international politics and conflict.
“I don’t think that Trump has a coherent foreign policy,” explained Dr. Dina Badie, a professor of International Studies at Centre, who’s focus is on American Foreign Policy in the Middle East. “His calculations are driven by domestic concerns rather than foreign realities. He has reversed on China, he has reversed on NATO, he has reversed on Russia, he has reversed on Afghanistan.”
“I’m just not convinced he has a strategy,” Badie elaborated. “I think we see all these contradictions because these contradictions are real. I don’t know that he is going to be able to reconcile those contradictions.”
Badie also speculated on the source of the confusion and chaos in Trump’s policy. “With that said, I think it is very difficult for any president, Trump or otherwise, to make really fundamental, drastic changes in foreign policy. He made these promises that were pretty dramatic in terms of the US’s role in the world. There are all these contradictions I think because this Trump’s process of learning, going from a candidate with these visions grounded in a lack of knowledge about foreign policy and learning more about foreign policy and shifting closer to what his predecessors have done.”
Badie also stated that the president “is learning on the job and the learning curve is very steep for foreign policy,” emphasizing the administration’s growing pains.
Dr. Badie expressed little concern that the strikes would negatively affect the United State’s position in the region. “I think that the United States is generally aligned with countries in the Middle East that are opposed to Assad. I think we are already on the anti-Assad side, whether or not we are actively involved in ousting him from power. It does matter though, that the United States would be opposed to Assad. It would be very difficult to start any diplomatic initiatives that would involve Assad.”
Dr. Rick Axtell, a professor of religion who has worked with international refugee issues, seemed skeptical that the strikes will positively, or negatively, affect the refugee crisis in Syria. “Will this have any effect? Not on the refugee situation,” he said.
Similar to Badie, Axtell seemed unsure that the strike was part of any greater plan. “I don’t know that it will have any effect, because I don’t think there’s a policy behind it. I don’t think it signals increased military involvement.”
He also worried that the presence of chemical weapons actually meant little change in the conflict. “What Assad is doing with conventional I weapons are also criminal. This is anti-civilian warfare and he has been doing that for years, without chemical weapons and it seems to me that the world isn’t reacting to that.”
Axtell went on to express concern for the refugee crisis stemming from the conflict. “I’m troubled by the rhetoric about refugees. These are war victims and the world needs to help them resettle and hopefully end the war, so that they can also go back home if that’s what they choose to do.”
Hannah Gibbs, a sophomore at Centre, worried about the potential for increased military involvement. “I don’t think it’s going to be good to up those,” she said, speaking on air strikes. “I don’t think inciting violence in countries where we’re already questioning whether or not we should be involved is a good idea for us as a country, especially considering what we just did in Syria.”
Gibbs felt the strikes would lead “to a more volatile system and more violence on a world stage.”