April 7 marked a defining point in President Trump’s future stance on foreign policy. Trump ordered a total of 59 tomahawk cruise missiles be fired onto a Syrian airbase.
The strike came as a response to the use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhun early last week.
The town is under the control of rebel forces fighting the Syrian government, and it is believed the chemical attack took place in an attempt to drive the rebels out of the town.
This is not the first instance of chemical weapons being used in the Syrian civil conflict.
The missiles were launched from two U.S. warships on the airfield allegedly used to launch the planes that carried out the chemical attack.
The reactions from other countries, U.S. legislatures and ISU students alike have been mixed.
“I think it’s a tough situation, that being said it’s tough to say what is right, what is wrong; but I would support our actions,” said Kristian Evans, an ISU student.
Evans believes that this is exactly the type of actions that the United States should continue to use in the future.
“Without us intervening directly, it allows [Syrians] to maintain their self-autonomy; but it also shows the United States is willing to help them gain that self-autonomy,” Evans said.
The feeling that the United States should help those who are need was shared by Jessica Katuwa, another ISU student.
“I think it’s the right thing to do because chemical attacks are illegal, and it’s kind of warning the other countries as well,” Katuwa said. “The killing of innocent life is just really depressing.”
Three of Idaho’s four Congressmen have expressed a great deal of support for Trump’s decision to strike the airfield.
Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch and representative Mike Simpson are in support.
Raul Labrador, the representative for Idaho’s first district felt that Trump should have engaged with Congress before deciding to act.
The unilateral nature of the strike has been a point of contention for many throughout the world. Whether the U.S. should have gained approval from the United Nations has been a question many heads of state have asked.
“We should try to stick to diplomacy as much as we could, but many times we just simply don’t have that option,” said Carson Knouf, another ISU student.
Evans added he would support the U.S. seeking U.N. approval in future actions, but that involves a lot of red tape, which is why he is understanding if in certain circumstances that is ignored.
“I’m ok with them going around the U.N. because it was something that needed to be done,” Evans said. “Not in a blanket term is ok to go around the U.N. but in this specific situation it was necessary and ok,” he continued.
“First off, this is Obama’s policy, the red line policy, the red line he drew in the sand over a similar incident a couple of years ago,” said Knouf, who feels that Trump is getting more backlash from the public than Obama did.
“I think what this means for his presidency is he’s fulfilling the duties that were put on his table. He was given what was put on his plate and he had to finish it,” Knouf said.
Whether or not the United States should continue to take actions in Syria is a point of contention. There are some such as Katuwa and Evans who think that actions should continue, but in different types; while Knouf believes that the U.S. should remain as uninvolved as possible.
“A show of force shows other countries that we’re not gonna sit by, we’re willing to act,” Evans said. He believes that there are circumstances that would warrant the United States intervening and taking some sort of actions against Syria, but he also wants to make sure that the Syrian people have every chance possible to take control of their country themselves.
Katuwa, on the other hand, would not be opposed if the United States decided to put troops on the ground and become even more active in the conflict.
“I think the U.S. needs to be more active, like what you’re doing now is great. I think it needs to be more active because people out here aren’t facing the same thing as Syrian people,” Katuwa said. “It’s better to be more focused on Syrian people as well in the time when they really need help.”
Knouf prefers that the other end of the ‘involvement spectrum,’ saying that the U.S. should only be reactionary when it comes to direct threat to its own citizens and military personnel.
“At the same time, there are people inside America that say, ‘No, this isn’t our problem we shouldn’t get involved,’ so it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of scenario,” Knouf said.
One thing to consider when evaluating how the U.S. should proceed in Syria is how it could affect the political climate with Russia.
Russia has long been an ally and backer of Bashar al-Assad, the current President of Syria.
Many countries, including the U.S., classify him as a dictator, and attribute the use of chemical weapons to him.
“When you deal with these kinds of international conflicts, there’s always going to be some kind of conflict no matter what,” Knouf said. “So right now it seems like the military and Trump in particular have to pick between, does he help the Syrian people who can’t defend themselves or keep trying to make good relations with Russia.”
The United States and Russia have been attempting to come to an agreed strategy of fighting ISIS in the region, with the U.S. saying Russia has to cease supporting the fighting in the civil war, while Russia called for the U.S. to step up its commitment in the region.
In the aftermath of the assault on the airbase, several agreements between the U.S. and Russia have been suspended by Russia.
President Trump has made no indication that he plans to revisit the indefinite ban he placed on Syrian refugees entering the country.