President Donald Trump has painted a vision of an America that is no longer “the world’s policeman.” But in ordering a barrage of air strikes on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons resources, Trump reasserted America’s role as an international force. Trump said the move was not merely an ethical reaction to the brutality of Assad’s attacks but that it was also in the “vital national security [interest] of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
Trump asserted that there could be “no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.” With that statement, Trump leaned on international agreements and bodies to undergird his actions, seemingly a departure from his “America first” isolationist rhetoric. The Chemical Weapons Convention Trump cites is an international agreement between member states of the OPCW — the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The UN Security Council, the most powerful body of the United Nations, is charged with the “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.” The Council is composed of 15 members, including five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.