CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Questions If US 'Acted as ISIS's Air Force'

In the wake of the U.S. missile strikes against Syrian military targets late Thursday, speculation swirled about what the next step was and what the country’s Syria policy would be going forward. One such speculator was CNN’s resident plagiarist Fareed Zakaria who had a plethora of questions for President Trump. He warned that the strikes could be aiding ISIS. “Are we now saying we’re against Assad? Do we want to strengthen ISIS? Do we want the Assad regime to fall?” he wondered.

If so, are we willing to commit ourselves to that goal?” he continued to ask, “If not, we've just thrown bombs in the middle of one of the most complex civil wars in the country and now we're going to step back and say, ‘Well that's it, we're done.’

Zakaria agreed on a base level with the strikes saying, “there is a kind of morally affirming element to this act—this military act.” But he couldn’t figure out if the Trump administration had a long-term political strategy he was trying to achieve:

But you know military strategist Samuel Huntington used to say “military force is not a good instrument of communication, it is an instrument of compelance.” You have to have something you are trying to get the other side to do. A political strategy that you’re using the force for. What is our political strategy?

But what is the political strategy behind it? Are we now going to try and topple the Assad government? If so, that means tens of thousands of troops on the ground. If not, what exactly have we active?

He seemed to caution that if there was no such strategy coming from the administration that Trump risked helping ISIS. “There is a danger that we effectively acted as ISIS’s air force. Because anything that weakens Assad in a strategic sense in Syria strengthens ISIS. Those are the two principal players on the ground,” he argued.

But the strikes do get some retribution for the innocent lives taken by the butcher Assad in the gas attack since the air base hit is where the attack reportedly originated from. And it’s sort of hard to seriously argue that strikes on Assad are helping ISIS when the U.S. is mobilized against them and is driving them out of Iraq. 

Transcript below:

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CNN Tonight
April 6, 2017
11:16:21 PM Eastern

DON LEMON: As we know Fareed, the President did not want to go into Syria he’s said as much years ago, even 48 hours ago. It appears this is a change in strategy and a change in policy and very quickly.

FAREED ZAKARIA: Well, it’s a change in policy. I'm not sure it's a change in strategy because the president seems to have said that, you know, this is a retaliation, that this was tied to Assad's chemical use. But Secretary Tillerson has briefed reporters saying “we’re not changing our strategy to Syria. We’re not--” It’s a one off as it were.

So this is almost an expression of moral outrage and who can quarrel with that. I mean, Assad is a horrible dictator. What he did was ghastly. The fact that we can in some way show that, make him pay some kind of a price for it. It makes us all feel that the United States is in some sense affirming its role as a moral leader. But you know military strategist Samuel Huntington used to say “military force is not a good instrument of communication, it is an instrument of compelance.” You have to have something you are trying to get the other side to do. A political strategy that you’re using the force for. What is our political strategy?

There is a civil war in Iraq [Syria] between Assad essentially and ISIS and a bunch of other jihadis. Are we now saying we’re against Assad? Do we want to strengthen ISIS? Do we want the Assad regime to fall? If so, are we willing to commit ourselves to that goal? If not, we've just thrown bombs in the middle of one of the most complex civil wars in the country and now we're going to step back and say, “Well that's it, we're done.”

LEMON: And the reason it's hard to answer many of the questions you're asking is because this is such a young presidency and we really don't know what the foreign policy is, especially when it comes to Syria.

ZAKARIA: Well, and there is this bizarre incoherency at this point, right? As you said there are 24 tweets that Donald Trump made in 2013 when there were worse chemical attacks than this one in which he said “do not get involved in Syria, do not bomb Syria this would be a big mistake.” Sean Spicer said two days ago reacting to this very chemical attack, “We shouldn't be trying to get Assad out, that's not realistic.”

So, if that's the case, what have we just done, and what is the purpose of it, and what will we do tomorrow? So I said, there's a tremendous feel good -- I don't mean that in a superficial sense, there is a kind of morally affirming element to this act—this military act that I applaud. But what is the political strategy behind it? Are we now going to try and topple the Assad government? If so, that means tens of thousands of troops on the ground. If not, what exactly have we active?

There is a danger -- Ben Wedeman mentioned it on Anderson. There is a danger that we effectively acted as ISIS’s air force. Because anything that weakens Assad in a strategic sense in Syria, strengthens ISIS. Those are the two principle players on the ground.

LEMON: And that is really the dilemma here. What happens with ISIS when it comes to this. 

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