Trump said Obama’s ‘horrendous leadership’ on Syria could start World War III. He’s made things even worse.
Last year on the campaign trail, crowds roared when Donald Trump denounced his opponent as “trigger-happy” Hillary. But President Trump is rapidly incarnating the vice he condemned. Nowhere is this more evident than in Syria, where Trump’s recklessness risks dragging America into a major war.
U.S. policy toward Syria has been a tangle of absurdities since 2012. President Obama promised 16 times that he would never put U.S. “boots on the ground” in the four-sided Syrian civil war. He quietly abandoned that pledge and, starting in 2014, launched more than 5,000 airstrikes that dropped more than 15,000 bombs on terrorist groups in Syria.
Four years ago, Trump warned in a tweet: “If the U.S. attacks Syria and hits the wrong targets, killing civilians, there will be worldwide hell to pay.” But the Trump administration has sharply increased U.S. bombing while curtailing restrictions that sought to protect innocents. A British-based human rights monitoring group estimated Friday that U.S.-led coalition strikes had killed almost 500 civilians in the past month — more than any month since U.S. bombing began. A United Nations commission of inquiry concluded that coalition airstrikes have caused a “staggering loss of civilian life.”
The carnage is sufficiently embarrassing that “the Pentagon will no longer acknowledge when its own aircraft are responsible for civilian casualty incidents,” Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations recently noted.
U.S.-led forces are reportedly bombarding the besieged city of Raqqa with white phosphorous, a munition that burns intensely and is prohibited by international law from use against civilians. Deploying white phosphorous to attack Raqqa could be a war crime, Amnesty International warns.
Trump’s most dangerous innovation involves direct attacks on Syrian government forces, including last week’s shootdown of a Syrian jet fighter. The Russian government, which is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad, responded by threatening to shoot down any aircraft over much of Syria.