04/08/2017

The Strike At Syria

Eliott Abrams, The Weekly Standard

The Trump administration has had a rocky start. There was the defeat on Obamacare, staffing the departments has been far too slow, the National Security Advisor lasted only three weeks, there has clearly been infighting in the White House staff, and there have certainly been too many tweets.

But that 75-day break-in period has just ended, and the Trump administration can truly be said to have started only now. The president has been chief executive since January 20, but this week he acted also as Commander in Chief. And more: He finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.

This was unexpected: He had appeared to say, during the campaign, that this kind of global leadership role was just too expensive. We were tired of it, tired of having others take advantage of us. We could not solve all the world's problems.

But the strike at Syria had at its heart precisely that kind of global leadership, to enforce the century-old ban on chemical warfare—in the interest of decency and peace. His remarks ended with words that many predecessors, from Wilson to Roosevelt, and Kennedy to Reagan, might have spoken: "as long as America stands for justice then peace and harmony will prevail."

Explaining the strike, Secretary of State Tillerson pointed to one clear security goal: "if there are weapons of this nature available in Syria, the ability to secure those weapons and not have them fall into the hands of those who would bring those weapons to our shores to harm American citizens." But then he added "it's important that some action be taken on behalf of the international community to make clear that the use of chemical weapons continues to be a violation of international norms." The term "on behalf of the international community" is certainly not one we have previously heard from the Trump administration.

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