There are plenty of world leaders who could make a legitimate, morally righteous case that airstrikes on Syria were the appropriate response to Bashar al-Assad's cowardly gas attack on defenseless children. But Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are not those leaders.
Trump has spent the last year libeling the same Syrian refugees killed in this week's sarin gas attack. He literally banned the children murdered in that attack from finding safe refuge in the United States. And Marco Rubio — who would have politically lost nothing by standing up to Trump — repeatedly refused to condemn his bigoted refugee ban.
So it's more than a little disturbing that since last night Rubio, has been the Don's single best spokesman on cable news and the internet over his Syrian missile strikes.
The Don's change of heart came, Rubio insists, because the president was hit hard by the images of children killed by Assad's chemical weapons (and certainly not, as some cynics have suggested, due to Trump's desperate need for a polling bounce via mouth-breathing cable news anchors gushing over the "beauty" of his missiles.)
"I know @POTUS was deeply moved by the images and stories emerging from #SyriaChemicalAttack," Rubio tweeted last night shortly after the bombing run was announced.
That's some truly blinding hypocrisy. Trump is now moved by the deaths of the same kids he has gone to the mat to keep out of safety, propped up by a senator who could have been his loudest critic but did nothing.
Outside of that absurdity, there are certainly valid reasons for sticking up for a bombing run on Syria. Assad is a monster who deserves a U.S. missile strike directly in his face, as evidenced by the fact that apparently everyone from Canada to most Middle East nations backed the move for military action following the sarin gas attack that killed at least 86 people.
But hypocrisy aside, there's damn good reason to be skeptical of a man like Rubio — noted primarily for his deep commitment to advancing the cause of Marco Rubio — beating the war drums on cable shows that go weak-kneed with joy at the first sight of missile attacks.
Rubio's arguments on cable this morning have certainly been more nuanced than Trump's. Rubio argues that the best solution is kneecapping both Assad and ISIS to leave room for moderate rebel groups to take over.
"As long as Assad is there, you're going to have a radical Sunni group, whether it's Al-Qaeda or ISIS or someone else," Rubio told Good Morning America today. "As long as you have Assad, you're going to have terrorism emanating from Syria."
That's the rub, though, isn't it? Rubio is arguing for essentially the same thing President Barack Obama backed for years — a solution that left Assad out of power but also took out ISIS. The problem, though, is that it's a damn hard tightrope to walk, and there's little evidence that Trump's new Tomahawk-first strategy will get us there.
There's a fly in the borscht called Russia, and it's backing Assad's regime. Will Trump's new anti-Assad fervor really translate to a full-on military confrontation with Russia (or Iran, which is also backing Assad)?
As the pure cathartic joy of seeing Assad's air forces pummeled with bombs wears off this morning, the unintended side effects are already looming: Russia has already suspended an agreement to avoid direct conflict with American troops in Syria and demanded a UN Security Council emergency meeting over the missile strikes.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
If the past five years have made anything clear, it's that there are zero good options in Syria. Maybe an all-out assault on Assad is the way to go; Rubio is right that the Syrian president's regime deserves no respite for using banned weapons to murder children.
"Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished" Proverbs 11:21 #SyriaChemicalAttack— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 7, 2017
But the past two months have also made something else abundantly clear: The Trump administration has absolutely no idea what it's doing. Watching Rubio prod Trump into a Middle Eastern conflict on an all-too-accommodating cable news platform should be enough to make anyone queasy.
Here's a modest proposal for Rubio: Back the missile strikes all you want after coming up with a feasible plan to help the refugees being massacred by ISIS and Assad alike.