President Donald Trump received widespread support from Jewish leaders and elected officials last week for ordering a missile strike on the airbase from which Syrian President Bashar Assad is believed to have launched a chemical weapons attack on his own civilians. The question now being asked is what’s next.
“The U.S. action is a wake-up call to the international community that endless words of anguish and protest are not nearly enough in the face of an ongoing crisis of this magnitude,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “While it remains to be seen what the U.S. strategy will be, it is heartening to witness President Trump show leadership, strength, and resolve, and, in doing so, gain the support of so many in the international community.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement that also supported Trump’s decision, saying it “sends a clear message that when crimes against humanity are committed, words alone are never sufficient.”
Similarly Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the reprisal attack “made it clear to the world that the United States will not sit by as Assad brutally slaughters innocent civilians. President Trump made the right, moral choice.”
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Rockland/Westchester) also praised Trump for his “measured response to deter further use of chemical weapons by Assad and the Syrian regime.”
But Lowey, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, cautioned, “This strike will not solve the Syrian crisis nor provide humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians so desperately in need. President Trump must now present to the American people and armed forces a comprehensive, long-term strategy for ending the Syrian crisis, providing stability to the region, removing Assad, and holding him accountable for his crimes.”
And Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley, L.I.) also issued a statement of support, saying Trump’s “decisive action … sends a powerful message that this particular red line can never be crossed without consequences. It is important to note that the U.S. missile strike in Syria targeted infrastructure, not people.”
Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned, however, that “complacency and inaction has proven to be very costly in the past and we must be smarter and more effective with our efforts, which must include broadening our coalition of support to turn the tide in a country that is sadly in complete chaos, culminating in inhumane chemical warfare against innocent lives. The next chapter for Syria should be one that changes direction in favor of stability and peace.”
But praise from the Jewish community was not unanimous. Daniel Pipes, founder and president of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank, said in a statement that Trump’s action against Assad “implies siding with one side against the other [in Syria’s six-year-old civil war that has killed as many as 500,000], even though both of them are hideously repugnant.
“I see this military action as an error,” Pipes continued. “Nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires that American forces fight in every war around the world; this one should be sat out, letting enemies of the United States fight each other to exhaustion. The immense resources of the United States should be dedicated, rather, to two goals: reduce human suffering with blankets and soup and prevent the stronger side (now the regime) from winning through the provision of intelligence and arms to the weaker side (now the Sunni rebels).”
And Arthur Waskow, a rabbi associated with the Jewish Renewal movement, wrote in an email that Trump’s action “was an illegal act of war, launched in violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law [because it lacked congressional approval]. Congress should immediately cancel its planned recess and debate and vote before any further military engagement by Donald Trump in Syria. …
“Trump cannot bomb his way to peace. If he were truly concerned about the human suffering in Syria, rather than sending a few dozen bombs, he would be leading the world in a diplomatic effort to end the war, increasing American support for humanitarian assistance, and welcoming Syrian refugees to the safety of America.”