The punitive military airstrike ordered by Donald Trump on Friday 7 April signaled the end of the non-interventionist stance adopted by the US President since he was elected. The 59 missiles fired at Syria in the early hours of Friday morning clearly meant that Trump is ready to act when his own red lines are crossed.
But and beyond the spin of the “commander in chief” ready to save the world, Trump wanted to show that he was still in charge and he could strike any country around the globe and whenever he wanted too.
This 180 degrees U-turn came as a surprise to many of his most fervent supporters.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to pursue an “America First” foreign policy that would be less interventionist than his predecessors.
He also explained that he would be more willing than Barack Obama to accommodate strong leader and dictators, such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or President Vladimir Putin in Russia, if it was in the US interest to be friend with them.
This non-interventionist political stance was meant to please his alt-right friends, who wanted a US President that would be more willing to deal with national issues than spending money on foreign intervention.
Yet, after only a few months in the White House, Trump started his own “private war” against Syria, and launched his missiles on a near-empty Syrian airbase.
This came as a betrayal and a surprise for the American alt-right movement, who thought that “America First” meant “America First within the US borders”.
Some of Trump’s strongest anti-war allies in the far-right movement have now spurned him. They say the military intervention in Syria showed Trump was never the true isolationist they hoped he would be.
Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart columnist, wrote on Facebook: “There comes a day in every child’s life when his Daddy bitterly disappoints him”.
Other ex-Trump supporters such as Richard Spencer talked about “the Trump betrayal” and the “end of America First”.
Nigel Farage, who aligned himself with Trump during last year’s campaign, spoke at his rallies and was among the first to meet with him after his election, said he was “very surprised” by the Syria action:
I think a lot of Trump voters will be waking up this morning and scratching their heads and saying, ‘Where will it all end?’
And Trump’s betrayal came after reports of former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon being booted from Trump’s National Security Council.
A blow for the far-right
Trump’s Syrian airstrike and the potential sacking of Bannon is a huge blow for the American far-right movement as they may now lose their influence over Trump.
Until Friday morning, they thought Trump was their man; they thought that he wasn’t like any other US Presidents, and would refuse to bomb a country far away and without warning.
To be fair to them, the airstrikes came days after Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, said the fate of Assad would be “decided by the Syrian people”.
Yet Trump switched course, apparently moved by the images of Syrian children killed in a gas attack that he saw on Fox News.
This was enough for him to take America out of the alt-right forced dream of isolationism and to strike Syria as a retaliation for children being savagely slaughtered. The US is now back as the global policeman, at least for a while.
But what has motivated Trump to show his strength? The sight of Syrian children dying? Until recently he didn’t care and has even accused Obama of being foolish if he wanted to get involved in the Syrian conflict after a chemical attack against civilians:
It was evident that that Trump needed a win. The last few months have been chaotic and his authority has been shattered both nationally and internationally. The President was weak and needed an easy win.
On the top of that, the accusations of being the Russian’s puppet were damaging even further his credibility as US President.
So yes, Trump needed a win and quick. Striking a near empty airbase in Syria was more a show of strength from the President than anything else. And it doesn’t matter if his far-right friends don’t like it. For Trump, what matters the most is Trump himself.
All about Trump
But for the rest of the world, his actions have consequences. In recent months, world leaders tried to understand if Trump will stay true to his words and decide to leave the world alone as he promised.
We now know that Trump lied during his election campaign, and his change of heart could have serious repercussions, at least for the Syrian people.
The Syrian civil war isn’t just ‘a simple civil war’, it is a proxy war between the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, France and Great Britain. All these nations help different factions fighting on the ground; either Daesh (Isil/Isis) or Assad or both. In the middle, the Syrian people are being slaughtered by either Assad’s regime, Daesh or by various other rebel groups.
What Trump did on Friday 6 April will not help the Syrian people, and it wasn’t what he wanted to achieve. Trump wanted to show that he is in charge.
At least we know that when Trump said he wanted to put “America First”, what he really meant to say was ‘Trump first and nothing else matters’.