If President Trump decides to launch military strikes on Syria, following the most recent gas attacks by the Assad regime, it’s a good bet that children will be central to his rationale.
In a tweet on Sunday, he mentioned young victims of the attacks:
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “The images, especially of suffering children, have shocked the conscience of the entire civilized world.”
Of course, leaders often use brutality against young people as justification for their policies—who can be against the children? And he might have other reasons to act, including a burgeoning domestic political liability created by the FBI raid on his attorney Michael Cohen. Presidents have often used quick, decisive, and splashy but limited military actions as a distraction from less positive stateside news.
Yet Trump’s approach has undergone an abrupt reversal, from demanding that aides devise an early exit strategy from Syria last week to rattling his saber in Damascus’s direction. The change of heart echoes an episode last year, right down to the president reacting to victimization of children. At that time, Trump, having complained about the prospects for America getting sucked into a war in Syria, suddenly decided to launch a round of airstrikes against Assad-regime targets after a gas attack in Khan Shaykhun.