During his presidential campaign in 2016, Trump repeatedly indicated that the interventions in the Middle East were stupid and unnecessary. He must have surprised his supporters when he announced that he commanded the US military to launch airstrikes against Syria in response to the supposed chemical weapons attack. Britain and France followed the US in this mission.
Although he spoke differently in the campaign, his preferences obviously changed when he got the seat in the office. He definitely thinks that America cannot watch from the side and as the world leader, his country needs to do something about the atrocities in Syria. Perhaps Trump is not so different from Obama after all. While many would disagree with such a statement, there are similarities between the two presidents. Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump made promises that they would change the role of America in the world. However, both failed to do so when faced with pressure. They sensed that they should act and so they did. As a result, we have had a poorly thought-out intervention and this is only going to become more prominent with the Trump administration in power.
According to psychological studies, people are prone to react to something which is happening around them. Inaction is seldom the solution. The studies have shown, that World Cup goalkeepers have more chance to save their net if they stay put, but most of them would dive during a penalty kick. Of course, the stakes are much higher in politics, than they are in soccer, but the bias towards reaction is not debatable. Obama was not the first president to start off with biased reactions. We have to mention George W. Bush whose choices were detrimental to the country and his Foreign Policy only weakened the US influence around the world.
The criticism comes from all sides of the world, whereas media also forces the world leaders to do something about a particular situation. Furthermore, we need to take into consideration that America has the most powerful military in the world, and the cost of airstrikes is negligible. When all of this is combined, we have expected no other reaction from President Donald Trump.
In 2013, President Obama was seeking approval from Congress to launch airstrikes on Syria due to chemical attacks, but the Congress was against it. This turned out to be a good decision because Obama managed to negotiate the removal of chemical weapons in Syria. This was a risk worth taking, but instead of ending chemical attacks once and for all, it only delayed them for several years. And here we are today.
Jump a few years into the future, and we have Mr. Trump who authorized missile attacks on Syria. The strikes were far less efficient than the dialogue and negotiation since the attacks on civilians didn’t cease, and the Syrian government still uses chemical weapons. Comparing the two decisions by two presidents, Obama made a better one – or the Congress in that matter. Yet, he was widely criticized for the inaction, whereas Trump was praised for the attack. Even some of his biggest critics acknowledged such a move and recognized Trump as someone who can deal with the situation outside the US borders well. Quick action may be effective, but it may sometimes have long-term consequences. Trump’s Syrian airstrike in 2017 proved more effective than Obama’s attack in Libya in 2011, for instance, which was disastrous.
Before we conclude this topic, we need to look at one more case of poorly thought-out intervention. When the US overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, it caused the European refugee crisis and the civil war which killed more people than the intervention saved. The removal of Gaddafi may have been the biggest mistake of the US foreign policy as Muslims flooded into Europe, settling in the West in countries such as Germany and France. However, Obama came to understand that the intervention needs to be planned carefully. But his epiphany came too late.
Obama doesn’t have an impulsive character, and yet he found it difficult not to act. Donald Trump will be even more impatient, and this is something that needs to be changed. The interventions need to be carefully planned by a president and a leader who knows what he is doing, and Trump is not that leader.