Last night, President Donald Trump made a surprising decision to conduct U.S. military strikes against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the first time in the course of Syria‘s devastating, 6-year civil war.
It was a retaliation, Trump said, for the deadly chemical attack carried out on Tuesday that killed at least 86 people, including dozens of women and children.
“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago retreat after the 59 Tomahawk missiles struck a Syrian air base, from which those chemical attacks were launched.
The move was applauded by some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but criticized by others for not seeking congressional authorization.
Here are some of the political takeaways from Trump’s decision to strike Syria:
Decisive line-in-the-sand moment
It wasn’t known Trump had a red line, but Bashar al-Assad clearly crossed it — and others, as Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden Wednesday. And Thursday night, Trump did what President Obama didn’t do after a more egregious gas attack in Syria in 2013: he took military action, and did so quickly — within 48-hours. Trump opted against congressional approval, though he had tweeted in 2013 that it would be a “big mistake” for then-President Obama if he did not pursue that course. But Congress did get a heads-up in this case — several top members of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees were briefed prior to the strikes by Trump administration officials.
Impact of the images
It’s clear that the horrific images out of Syria of children succumbing to toxic gas had a profound impact on President Trump and members of his administration. Since they began airing on TV — and Nikki Haley put a spotlight on them at the UN — Trump has mentioned the searing scenes in nearly every comment on Syria. They appeared not to grip him this way four years…