The Syrian missile strike and the education of Donald J. Trump in the art of responsible statecraft

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This article conducts a normative evaluation of the American missile strike on a Syrian airbase in April 2017 to assess whether it could be described as a responsible action. Marking a departure from President Trump's 'America First' approach, the missile attack was incessantly justified by administration officials using the terminologies of 'rights' and 'responsibilities.' The article utilises the theoretical propositions of the English School of International Relations to clarify the three benchmarks of a responsible action: acting legally, legitimately and prudently. A detailed examination of the official statements and the global political developments surrounding the strike suggests that although the action cannot be justified on the grounds of legality, it may still be described as responsible on the grounds of legitimacy and prudence. On its own, the strike can serve as an example of responsible statecraft, although these findings cannot be applied to the rest of President Trump’s foreign policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-447
Number of pages28
JournalGlobal Responsibility to Protect
Issue number4
Early online date9 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018


  • 'America First'
  • Donald Trump
  • Great-power responsibility
  • International law
  • Legitimacy
  • Normative prudence
  • Syria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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