The Other McCain

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THE BIG STICK: Trump’s Missile Attack on Syria Is the New ‘Smart Power’

Posted on | April 7, 2017 | Comments Off on THE BIG STICK: Trump’s Missile Attack on Syria Is the New ‘Smart Power’


President Trump’s statement Thursday night at the White House:

My fellow Americans: On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.
Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.

The military action:

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria overnight in response to what it believes was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.
At least six people were killed, Syria claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted and the strike was aimed at a military airfield in the western province of Homs.
The action completed a policy reversal for President Donald Trump — who once warned America to stay out of the conflict — and drew anger from Damascus and its main ally, Russia.

The domestic political consequences? Let’s just say Democrats will have a hard time saying Trump was wrong, considering that this was exactly what Hillary Clinton had suggested in an interview Thursday. So the President had political carte blanche to launch this attack, and finally enforce the “red line” Obama had failed to enforce against Syria.

The Obama administration talked a lot about “smart power,” but Trump actually used it. Military power is meaningless, as an instrument of diplomacy, if your would-be adversaries think you won’t use it. While it is unwise for the United States to pursue the kind of “nation-building” interventions that have characterized our post-Cold War foreign policy, neither is it wise for America to allow its international prestige to be undermined by a perception that we are unwilling to take risks. War is always an uncertain venture, and we cannot predict the consequences of military action against Syria, an ally of Russia. Yet there are also consequences of not acting, of doing nothing and thereby sending the message that your likely response in the future is . . . nothing.

“Talk softly, but carry a big stick,” Teddy Roosevelt famously said, and it is occasionally necessary to use that big stick to whack someone over the head, to demonstrate what the big stick can do.

Ralph Peters in the New York Post:

Leadership. That’s what we lacked for eight years. In the early hours of Friday morning in Syria — late Thursday evening here — our military, acting on the order of our commander-in-chief, avenged the slaughtered innocents in Syria and sent a clear message that we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons. Well done!

We may withhold congratulations until we see what effect this strike will have, and how Trump deals with future developments. At this point, it appears Trump’s action was the smart thing to do, but we have seen in the past that seemingly smart decisions can produce bad results. Personally, I have long felt that the United States and Russia should not be enemies, and it was only Soviet Communism that created this hostility. Vladimir Putin came to power during an era when the Clinton administration had fumbled away the opportunities America had in the post-Cold War era, and Putin’s ruthlessness is well known. The accusation (made by Hillary Clinton just yesterday) that Russia interfered in the U.S. election raises the question, “Why?” And now that Trump has attacked Putin’s ally in Syria, what did Russia gain by its alleged “hacking” of the election?

As a symbolic gesture, Trump’s attack on Syria has enormous importance, but we do not know what it will mean beyond mere symbolism.



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