President Donald Trump, on the campaign trail, was firmly against intervening in Syria. Even before he ran for president, he demanded that President Barack Obama not send troops into Syria and argued for not using military force against Bashar al-Assad. America, he argued, had wasted valuable blood and treasure abroad and needed to spend more time nation building at home:
We should stop talking, stay out of Syria and other countries that hate us, rebuild our own country and make it strong and great again-USA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2013
So after Trump ordered military strikes against a Syrian airfield on Thursday night, at least some of his most vocal supporters say they feel betrayed. Almost immediately following reports of the Syrian airstrikes, prominent right-wing news outlets and media personalities most closely associated with the self-described alt-right and Trumpism more generally attacked the president’s foreign intervention — which appears to fly against so much of the rhetoric from his campaign.
Among them were Paul Joseph Watson, who contributes to the far-right conspiracy site Infowars; Mike Cernovich, the professed self-improvement guru who’s drawn a massive social media following in part by praising Trump; radio host Laura Ingraham, formerly of Fox News; and Ann Coulter, the author and provocateur. All four quickly denounced the attacks as a reversal of Trump’s campaign promises:
I guess Trump wasn't "Putin's puppet" after all, he was just another deep state/Neo-Con puppet.— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) April 7, 2017
I'm officially OFF the Trump train.
It's been fun lads, but the fun is over. I'll be focusing my efforts on Le Pen, who tried to warn Trump against this disaster.— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) April 7, 2017
Missiles flying. Rubio's happy. McCain ecstatic. Hillary's on board. A complete policy change in 48 hrs.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) April 7, 2017
Even the readers at Breitbart, which is known as the home on the internet for pro-Trump coverage, rebelled against the attack. New America fellow Matt Stoller waded through Breitbart’s comments pages and saw thousands of furious responses:
Breitbarters seem unhappy w/the Syrian strikes. "just like Hillary wanted. Great! This week has been the crappiest I have felt in 2 years." pic.twitter.com/JWS6GXPUqu— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) April 7, 2017
I keep reading these Breitbart comments on Syria. Eight thousand new ones in just a few minutes. They are very angry at Trump.— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) April 7, 2017
"The Syrian people should be thankful to know that US cruise missiles don't kill women and children."— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) April 7, 2017
That's from Breitbart!
But Republican Party officials are ecstatic with Trump’s intervention. Fox News, which is closely associated with the Republican Party establishment, has not openly turned against the intervention the way personalities like Cernovich and Watson have.
But other Trump supporters, including the alt-right — which has its roots in the deeply anti-interventionist paleoconservative movement — thought Trump was the kind of Republican who opposed military intervention. Not everyone thought this was a correct assumption. During the presidential campaign, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp argued that Hillary Clinton, not Trump, was the real dove in the race:
The two of them support more or less the same military escalation in Syria. Both Clinton and Trump have proposed carving out "safe zones" in the country, which means clearing out a chunk of its territory and protecting it from aggressors. ...
Trump isn't a leftist, nor is he a pacifist. In fact, Trump is an ardent militarist, who has been proposing actual colonial wars of conquest for years. It's a kind of nationalist hawkishness that we haven't seen much of in the United States since the Cold War — but has supported some of the most aggressive uses of force in American history.
To many of those who rode the anti-establishment wave along with Trump, though, the president appeared to represent a break from the “national security establishment” they blamed for failed American interventionism. But before his first 100 days were up, Trump had ordered missile strikes on Syria instead, and many of those supporters now feel betrayed.