Eagerness to Criticize Obama Explains Trump’s Inconsistency on Syria

Trump counseled his predecessor against intervening in Syria only to later criticize him for not intervening in Syria.

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Critics are calling Donald Trump’s missile strike against Syria a flip flop, but it’s really the logical outcome of holding two wildly inconsistent opinions on an issue.

In 2013, Trump said to President Barack Obama, via Twitter (caps his):

AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA — IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!

Indeed, Trump has expressed a consistent willingness to allow Bashar Assad, a Russian puppet, to stay in power so as to focus exclusively on defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

While problematic, it is at least an internally consistent talking point.

But since 2013, Trump has picked up the “red line” criticism of Obama, which argues that the Democrat erred in failing to strike Assad after chemical weapons were used in Ghouta that year.

The inconsistency in holding these two positions is obvious: Trump argued against attacking Assad in 2013 but has since claimed Obama should have enforced his red line. By what means, then?

As for this week, Trump decided that the latest chemical attack crossed “many, many lines, beyond a red line”.

His action in Syria is consistent with the second, red-line position, but it is opposed to the first, don’t-attack-Syria principle.

This is what happens when you have two contradictory positions tied together by a desire to criticize your predecessor from every possible angle.