Skip to main content
Trump announces syria strike Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Trump’s War Policy in Syria

A prudent foreign policy is different from a “proportional” response to a specific event, because it involves establishing the ends that the chosen means are supposed to serve. In other words, foreign policy requires strategic thinking, and, in Syria, US President Donald Trump has shown no evidence of it.

LONDON – Clearly, the last word has not been said about the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, Syria, on April 4, which left 85 dead and an estimated 555 injured. But three points – concerning responsibility for the attack, the United States’ military response to it, and the episode’s effect on the course of Syria’s civil war – need to be made.

First, all governments lie, not congenitally, but when it suits them and they think they can get away with it. This must be the premise of any effort to establish the truth about what happened. A good starting point is that democratic governments lie less often than authoritarian regimes, because they are less likely to get away with it. So one should prefer Russian President Vladimir Putin’s account to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s, and US President Donald Trump’s account to Putin’s.

According to Assad, the massacre was a “fabrication.” Putin, by contrast, admits that the massacre happened, but claims that the stock of chemical weapons was in rebel-held territory and was released either deliberately, to discredit the regime, or accidentally by government bombing. Finally, the Trump administration cites conclusive evidence that the attack was planned and carried out by the Assad government. All three call for an “objective” inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the “event,” but disagree on what would count as “objective.”

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;

Handpicked to read next

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions