04/10/2017

Trump’s Syria Strike Altered Perceptions Of His Presidency — And Highlighted The Failures Of Obama’s

Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review

With a forceful response to Assad’s chemical-weapons attack, Trump surprised the world and reminded us of his predecessor’s disastrous Middle East policies.

Donald Trump’s many detractors tend to forget something important: The power of his office is such that simply by deploying the military might of the United States, he can change the national conversation in an instant. By ordering a missile strike on the Syrian airfield from which the Assad government — and, perhaps, its Russian enablers — attacked civilians with chemical weapons, Trump did just that. It isn’t clear yet whether this is the beginning of a more muscular, sensible approach to foreign policy in general and to Syria, Russia, and Iran in particular. But what we do know is that Trump has just demonstrated a capacity to rethink his previously held positions and to act decisively in response to an outrageous crime — in other words, the capacity to act like a commander-in-chief. This is something few of his critics thought he possessed.

Last night’s strike forced Trump’s media tormentors to stop speculating for the moment about unproven collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It might also have begun the process of changing the way we think about Trump. We’ve lived through two months of what looked like a presidency in crisis, replete with West Wing palace intrigue and a disastrously failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump’s trademark lack of discipline and belligerent disregard for the truth had cratered his favorability ratings, and his failure to break through Washington’s gridlock had created a narrative of incompetence.

Yet in less than a week, Trump just proved that he is capable of reacting to unforeseen events, evaluating the options, and then making what appears to be exactly the right move at exactly the right time. The precision strike on Syria was an appropriate use of force that sent a powerful message to the butcher of Damascus and his patrons — and hopefully to other rogue nations such as North Korea — while avoiding all-out war. Just as important, it reasserted America as a force to be reckoned with and made clear that those who believe the U.S. is too war-weary and afraid of foreign entanglements to respond to the most blatant, brutal war crimes have another thing coming.

It is likely the opposite of what Trump’s critics and even many of his fans might have expected from him. And it highlights, for those who have been unwilling to see it up until now, the scope of his predecessor’s failures.

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