Where does the president stand on intervention abroad?
President Trump proposed a $54 billion (10 percent overall) increase in defense spending, to a total of $639 billion for fiscal year 2018. He said the increase would be needed to fight terrorism, improve troop readiness, and build new ships and planes; the proposed increase would be paid for by deep cuts to other agencies, including a 28 percent cut from the State Department budget. He also requested an additional $30 billion for the Defense Department for the remainder of fiscal year 2017. This is not the most that a United States president has spent on defense, yet it is still pretty high compared to the 1990s.
Despite the fact that Trump tweeted 19 times in 2013 and 2014 that the U.S. needed to stay out of Syria, on Thursday, April 6, Trump ordered the U.S. Navy to launch a military strike involving 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian government air base. The location was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week. This attack was a shift from Trump’s previous claim, “Syria should be a free zone for ISIS, let them fight and then you pick up the remnants.” Yet it echoes Trump’s response in the March 11, 2016 CNN Republican presidential debate to whether or not he would send ground troops to fight ISIL: “We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS.”
It is clear that President Trump has changed his mind about how the U.S. is going to act on the Syria issue. Even though he said the attack that caught everyone by surprise was due to the recent chemical attacks, it wouldn’t really do much to change the years-long civil war in Syria. Therefore, aside from the humanitarian approach of wiping out terrorism, the bombing of Syria seems to have more to do with the countries that Syria has ties to, such as Russia. These new aims seem to be reflective of the strategy that former Secretary of State and presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, espoused: “It’s time the Russians were afraid of us because we were going to stand up for the rights, the human rights, the dignity and the future of the Syrian people.”