Trump’s Offensives in the Middle East Get Mixed Reviews

In the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s domestic-centric platform as well as his previous tweets critiquing the Obama Administration’s actions in the Middle East all indicated that Trump would take a more “non-interventionist” lean in U.S. foreign policy.

But given the Trump Administration’s recent military actions in Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan and rhetoric on North Korea and Russia – political pundits can’t help but wonder if Donald Trump has abandoned his “America First” philosophy, and are applauding him for doing so.

“I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night,” CNN Host Fareed Zakaria said in response to the U.S. missile strike in response to the alleged Assad chemical attack against Syrian civilians.

Among those applauding the strike, many point to Trump’s decisiveness in the face of graphic “images that moved the President to act” as a commendable action.

“The thousands of children who are endangered and dying in Syria do not get to hide behind a black bar,” CNN contributor AJ Willingham writes, sympathetic to Trump’s newfound humanitarian cause in Syria, “You can look away from a photograph, but for them it is their lives – and deaths – that are depicted.”

Pundits were also quick to draw a heavy line between the Trump and Obama Middle East policy, and were quick to notice that Trump was willing to act in the face of the “Red Line” (use of chemical weapons) being crossed, when Obama did not.

“Last night, the Obama era in American foreign policy ended,” former U.S. U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said on Fox and Friends, appealing to partisan sentiments. Bolton also said Trump “made a very limited and precise strike for a very limited and precise reason.”

Max Boot, Op-Ed contributor for the New York Times, echoes support of Trump’s recent bombing of ISIS forces in Afghanistan: “Preliminary reporting indicates that the bomb may have killed 36 Islamic State militants and collapsed some tunnel networks. These are results to be cheered.”

Boot also noted that the Trump Administration’s use of military authority is making America appear to be a more dominant force the international stage, “and if North Korea or Iran is intimidated by this staggering display of firepower, so much the better.”

There were voices that were loudly against Trump’s recent military offenses in the Middle East—but they were fewer in number. Most were expressed through more partisan left-leaning, libertarian, or international publications.

An Observer Editorial from The Guardian characterizes Trump’s foreign policy as “extreme strategic instability,” and comments on the hypocrisy behind his hawkish actions given his non-interventionist rhetoric throughout the election cycle: “If Bomber Trump has proved anything in the past three months, it is that he lacks the judgment, the common sense and the common humanity to be anybody’s commander in chief.”

Also from The Guardian, assistant editor Simon Tisdall wrote that “Trump seems unconcerned about the impact on civilians, or how such unilateral escalation may look to the rest of the world.”

Tisdall also speculated that Trump is making efforts to appear more legitimate on the international stage: “Having previously decried America’s role as world policeman, it is as if he has discovered the keys to the family gun cabinet. The Afghan bombing again suggests he cannot resist the urge to throw his weight around.”

John Stossel, contributor for the libertarian blog Reason, expressed concern of the political whims of the American people: “Somehow, firing Tomahawk missiles at Syria suddenly changed people’s opinions of President Trump. Now they call him a ’serious’ leader.”

He continued to question Trump’s actions, and confidence of those who applauded the strike, based on the unconfirmed situation in Syria at the time the piece was written–noting that “we don’t even know for certain” if Assad used nerve gas.

Trump wasn’t the only one at the end of Reason’s firing line—the media was as well. Ed Kreyewski didn’t parse his words: “The Washington establishment—politicians and media—have in less than the first 100 days illustrated for Donald Trump that perhaps the only thing he can expect to consistently be awarded for is publicized military action—whether it’s a raid in Yemen of questionable value that leads to U.S. and civilian casualties, or a strike against a country in which he previously said he was not interested in regime change.”

While many pundits were keen to praise Trump’s Middle East offensives very shortly after they happened, others expressed their concerns with Trumps increasing actions in the region.

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