Recapping the Trump administration inside of a few minutes every week should be an impossible task, but the team at Last Week Tonight has really found its rhythm. John Oliver's Syria attack segment on Last Week Tonight raised complicated questions that made an airstrike shot from the hip seem rightfully terrifying. Thankfully, he also wrapped it up with an American Pie analogy to try and cheer us up. (It won't be super effective in the long run, but the thought counts.)
Oliver noted that the media response to the airstrikes "occasionally bordered on the orgasmic," with clips of Brian Williams gushing over how "beautiful" the night sky and weapons in the video footage were. "What are you talking about?" Oliver questioned, aghast. "It is a little ironic to see Brian Williams on MSNBC talking about 'the beauty of our weapons,' because that's not a phrase anyone would use if they had, for instance, ever been in a helicopter that was hit by ground fire."
He also hit on John McCain and Lindsay Graham, typically critics of Trump, saying "he deserves the support of the American people," and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying it was the right thing to do. Meanwhile, Trump's supporters, namely InfoWars' Alex Jones, criticized the president for his actions.
As many have pointed out, Trump's decision to intervene went against the Middle East strategy he campaigned on. More troublingly, the airstrike seemed to be an impulsive and emotion-driven decision (what's that thing about lady presidents being too emotional to handle commander-in-chief responsibilities?) made after seeing disturbing images of an apparent chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad against his own people in Syria. Several global affairs experts pointed out that, aside from the feeling that American military forces are "doing something," the airstrike didn't actually change anything or hurt Assad in a significant way.
Oliver asked only five questions about the strategy behind the airstrike, but each leads to countless more and the White House hasn't provided any answers to them. Oliver said:
Maybe a symbolic airstrike was strategically the best move for Trump, but I don't think he's thinking strategically. Because there is no indication that he's taken the time to answer some fairly basic questions, like: if this was a warning shot, what are we warning against? Do we only want to stop Assad using chemical weapons or are we going to push for regime change? If he does it again, are we prepared to go to war to stop him? If so, are we prepared for how significantly this may deteriorate our relationship with Russia? And how will that affect our fight against ISIS?
And, he generously pointed out, this is complicated. "Right now, we have a president who feeds off praise and he just got a lot of it for bombing someone," he explained. "And that should make everyone very, very worried."
The airstrike, in other words, was simultaneously useless and terrifying, and, according to Oliver, we're now left at risk of Donald Trump becoming Jim from American Pie with the whole world becoming that infamous pie. It's a scary and confusing place to be, but at least someone is asking the messy questions.