The response to a horrific crime is too important to be dictated by the president’s vanity, as seems to be the case – and the consequences could spin out of control
‘Iwill tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact.” Those were the words of Donald Trump following the use of chemical weapons in Idlib province. With them, he sent the diplomatic world into a spin: had the president changed his mind on one of the most urgent foreign policy issues of our times?
As far as it’s ever possible to discern method in his madness, Trump’s attitude towards the war in Syria has been relatively straightforward. Destroying Isis is the priority, he has stated time and again, and if that means in bolstering Assad as a side-effect, so be it. This has been the logic of his benign attitude towards Russia, too: Vladimir Putin is a Christian leader willing to use hard power against jihadist Islam, so he’s one of the good guys. Also, Iraq was a mess, and no one wants to start World War Three. Or, as he memorably put it back in November, “I had to listen to [Republican Senator] Lindsey Graham talk about, you know, attacking Syria and attacking, you know, and it’s like you’re now attacking Russia, you’re attacking Iran, you’re attacking.”