In the aftermath of the horrific chemical attacks perpetrated by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad against his own citizens, Donald Trump – in what we genuinely view as a positive development – appeared disgusted by the barbaric violence of the Assad regime.
Said Trump on Wednesday, “Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack so horrific in Syria against innocent people including women, small children, and even beautiful little babies, their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”
It has since been reported that Trump was ultimately swayed by the pictures and videos that emerged of dying Syrian children and the agony of affected family members. With these pictures in mind, Trump ordered a volley of missile strikes on the airbase from which the chemical weapons were launched: an attack that, while not inflicting any serious or long-term consequences on the Assad regime, certainly sent a message.
Again, we are encouraged that Trump appears to have developed a baseline level of empathy – empathy that, frankly, we had not seen prior to Assad’s chemical attacks. But while launching a few dozen missiles may assuage Trump’s anger at Assad’s despicable attacks, it does nothing to help the victims of the Assad regime. As you may recall, Trump has signed multiple executive orders expressly banning Syrian refugees from finding refuge in the United States. These refugees are the same “innocent people including women, small children and even beautiful babies” that Trump mourned this Wednesday.
Will Trump’s new-found empathy lead to a change in his immigration policies? We are actually hopeful that it will. Already, senior Republicans are calling for Trump to revise his refugee ban to make an exception for Syrians fleeing the terrors of the Assad regime. Said Sen. Jeff Flake: “We have a responsibility to accept refugees…I am going to encourage the administration to resume the acceptance of Syrian refugees. It is tough to see women, and particularly children treated as they are in Syria and not want to help them.”
Should Trump do the right thing, the human thing, and allow Syrian refugees the opportunity to find safety in the United States, it would represent a tremendous correction for this administration. Ordering a missile strike is easy. What the victims of the Syrian conflict need most, however, is refuge. As the president, Trump has the power to grant this refuge. Whether or not he chooses to do so will be indicative of the extent of his empathy and, moreover, his humanity.