Sen. John McCain championed President Donald Trump’s decision to launch an attack against Syrian government forces, calling the action the "beginning” of continued involvement in the region.
“This is a beginning, and a lot of hard things have to be done, but without this [airstrike], those other things couldn’t have been done either,” the Arizona Republican said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe"on Friday, adding that he had spoken to National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis. "They realize this is a long, hard slog. After all, it’s been eight years in the making.”
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On Thursday night, Trump directed the U.S. military to strike a government airfield in Syria in retaliation for the regime’s use of chemical weapons on civilians this week. The strike, which is the first direct U.S. attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, targeted the airfield from which the chemical weapons appeared to have been launched, a move the administration said would deter Assad from using chemical weapons in the future.
The military action is a major departure from the Trump administration’s statements earlier this week that the administration would not intervene in Syria to remove Assad from power. Trump campaigned on an "America First" foreign policy platform, which called for less military intervention in the Middle East.
It’s also a pivot from Trump’s longheld pinion that the U.S. should not use military force in Syria so as not to begin a long-term conflict. In 2013, Trump repeatedly tweeted that former President Barack Obama should not bomb Syria after Assad’s government forces carried out a chemical weapons attack on its civilians. Obama did not ultimately use military force in response, a decision McCain fiercely opposed.
McCain had criticized the Trump administration’s previous noninterventionist approach to Syria, calling it “another disgraceful chapter in American history.” But by Thursday night, McCain was championing Trump’s decision to strike the airfield, saying in a joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina that the president “deserves the support of the American people.”
McCain said on "Morning Joe" on Friday that he thought the American people “probably” approved of the airstrikes.