A man is sitting in his living room on a Sunday afternoon, enjoying a cool drink and a ballgame on television, trying to drown out the noise of the neighborhood kids playing on the sidewalk just outside his door and the sound of someone doing donuts in their car out in the street. Suddenly, he hears a terrific crash that cannot be ignored. He jumps up and runs to the door to find one of the neighborhood kids lying broken and bleeding on the sidewalk, with the rest of the kids standing around him, screaming and pointing down the street to where a car has crashed into a telephone pole near the corner. The man runs out of his house, past the neighborhood kid lying broken and bleeding on the sidewalk and down to the crashed car at the end of the block, where he drags the driver out and begins pounding him with punches and kicks, shouting all the while about “don’t you know we’ve got kids playing out here?”
Meanwhile, that neighborhood kid remains broken and bleeding on the sidewalk just outside his door, waiting for one of the other neighbors to come out and provide help to him or to make the 911 call for emergency medical attention.
Whatever love and protectiveness this man professes to feel about the kids in his neighborhood—and we won’t doubt the presence of those feelings—it is his actions in the immediate wake of the accident which reveal what actually was dominating his feelings. Maybe it was merely his anger at the driver who had been doing donuts in the street, or frustration with his own inability to do anything about it, or perhaps the man was transferring his built-up rage at the merciless managers of the bank that holds his home mortgage, or at his boss who works him too much and pays him to little and disrespects him in between, or possibly it was a chance to strike a blow at all of the injustices of the world from the time of the Roman Empire onward, at which the man was finally able to vent and release with the pummeling of the driver crashed against the telephone pole down at the end of the block. Whatever. Most likely, the man himself does not know the actual cause of his actions, and without challenge, may truly believe that it is for the protection of the neighborhood children.
It is in this light that we should judge President Donald Trump’s decision—in the wake of the poison gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib Province—to send an armada of Tomahawk Missiles screaming down on the buildings and bunkers and runways of the air base at Shayrat. Mr. Trump said he ordered the attack after seeing images of the bodies of the “beautiful babies [who] were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric [poison gas] attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
There were many things Mr. Trump could have done for the children of Khan Sheikhoun after viewing those horrible images. He could have, as many have afterwards suggested, lifted his own imposed travel ban on immigration from seven countries in the Muslim world, a ban which prevents so many of those “beautiful babies” of Syria from being able to flee the horrific violence of their country’s civil and terrorist wars with their families to find succor and peace in the United States. If that was too big a hurdle to leap, Mr. Trump could have ordered Army and Navy medical personnel and supplies to the site of the attack to assist in immediate medical care, as our neighbors in Cuba so often do during natural or man-made tragedies. Or Mr. Trump could have had the most seriously-injured of the victims airlifted to American military hospitals in Germany, where they could have gotten some of the best treatment on the planet. Or there are many other actions of comfort and concern he could have taken to put America’s arms around the suffering victims.
He did none of those.
Instead, Mr. Trump left the children broken and bleeding on the sidewalks of Khan Sheikhoun while he rushed down to the White House Situation Room to rain down fire and death upon the air base at Shayrat.
Forget the geopolitical analysis. Forget the twitter feeds and the Facebook posts and the evening talk show chatter. Forget, for the moment, what this might reveal about Donald Trump’s holdings in Tomahawk Missile stock or his wretched poll numbers or his attempt to distract from the current chaos infecting his presidential administration or the true nature of his complication relations with President Vladmir Putin of Russia. Use, instead, your common sense. Mr. Trump’s immediate actions in the wake of the Idlib gas attack tells you everything you need to know about what the President of the United States really feels about those beautiful babies of Khan Sheikhoun and the horror they have been made to suffer.
And after that, there’s not much else to say.