On Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver criticized the U.S. response to the Syrian sarin attack on civilians, critiquing the short-sighted nature of President Trump's strategy as well as condemning the hyperbolic praise offered to him after the fact.
While repeatedly acknowledging the horror of April 4's chemical weapon attack against Syrian men, women, and children, Oliver lambasted what he perceived as an ill-thought-out reaction to the attacks by the Trump administration. On Thursday, Trump authorized a U.S. airstrike against a Syrian government air field in retaliation for the attack. However, beyond this air strike, the administration has indicated no follow-up plan for action. According to Oliver, this lack of follow-up is unacceptable. The comedian aptly captured his feelings on the show:
While it is natural to want to take some kind of action in response, it has to come in the context of a larger strategy or it is close to to worthless. Though the air strike seemed to make certain made people feel better, what did they actually achieve?
Oliver went on to insist that he does not believe Trump is "thinking strategically" about Syria both because of his historically inconsistent stance on the topic and because he has left many strategic questions about military intervention unanswered. In regards to the former point, Oliver noted that four years ago, following the last major chemical attack against civilians in Syria, Trump repeatedly indicated his opposition to any type of U.S. military action in the country. Oliver believes that this inconsistency, coupled with the fact that Trump has not addressed any obvious "next step" questions about the role of the United States in Syria, indicate that the U.S. airstrike was not strategic, but rather reactionary and possibly merely just a way for the Trump administration to quickly garner praise.
In addition to taking on the Trump administration, Oliver also critiqued politicians' responses to Trump's decision to launch the U.S. air strike in Syria. Oliver described these reactions as overly-praiseworthy and characterized them as not acknowledging the fact that much more needs to be done in Syria in order to achieve a legitimate humanitarian response. Indeed, Oliver implied that the public praise Trump is receiving for his decision to strike Syria could be inherently risky:
Right now we have a president who feeds off praise and he just got a lot of it for bombing someone and that should make everyone very, very worried.
Thus, while Oliver acknowledged both the complicated nature of a U.S. military response to the Syrian chemical weapon attack and the horrendous nature of the attack itself, Oliver believes that the Trump administration's response to this attack is short-sighted and possibly dangerous. Oliver, and likely many others, would appreciate further insight into the Trump administration's plans for future (if any) intervention in Syria, including an assessment of how this possible intervention would affect Syrian civilians as well as global security.
Images: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver/HBO