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April 10, 2017

Syria, Foreign Policy, and Donald Trump

Patricia A. Kelly

President Donald Trump certainly surprised the world last week by dropping missiles on a Syrian air base after Bashar al Assad’s chemical weapons attack on a defenseless village – and bombing the hospital where the victims were being treated.


This is hardly the first atrocity by the murderous Syrian president, but the first we’ve responded to with anything other than fingernail biting and blather.


There was widespread positive response to the attack, both among our leaders and those from around the world. No surprise that detractors included North Korea, who says it justifies their nuclear program; Russia, the invaders of the Ukraine; and Iran, which is trying to take over the whole Middle East region, supporting Assad, and doing both in collaboration with Russia.


Here at home most criticism has come from the extreme right and libertarian head-in-the-sand people, who think we can remain safe without engaging with the world at large; and those in Congress think they should be in on everything, no matter they can’t agree on whether a fly has wings, not to mention an isolated airstrike.


On the left, even those who support the attack, suggest it was an impulsive move based on President Trump’s emotional reaction to suffering babies, and that it was a complete change of policy on the part of the president. Those who mention his assertion that the attack was in the urgent strategic interest of the United States laugh that off, suggesting no one is going to attack the U.S. mainland with chemical weapons anytime soon. That may be true, but it’s clearly not the point.


President Trump asserts that he is flexible, and that he changes with change in the world. Truer words have seldom been spoken. This president is not an ideologue, unlike our last one, who arrived with a concrete ideology no change in world events could crack. From calling a police officer who investigated the black Harvard professor attempting to enter his home without keys as being stupid, to failing to react when Syria crossed his red line with a prior chemical weapons attack. He was unshakeable, locked inside his own head.


President Trump, a man who rolls with circumstances and always has, is frequently criticized for his lack of ideology, but taking an occasional look at real events, unhindered by unshakeable preconceptions, can be a good thing. Things do change.


President Barack Obama, convinced that the U.S. is racist despite his own election, must have at least studied the civil rights movement, but never appeared to add it into his own equation on racial harmony, which, though far from perfect, had increased in the United States until he and his protected classes came along.


The bottom line here, all stories that ignore this notwithstanding, is that President Trump has not significantly changed his policy with the Syria attack. His view of the missile attack as defending our urgent strategic interests was right on.


President Obama’s foreign policies put this country in a place where even allies didn’t trust our word, and where bad guys, more and more, think they could get away with anything. They are stepping closer and closer to hurting us badly because they think they can. We must convince them otherwise for our own security, and rebuild our relationship with our allies, especially in the Middle East.


President Trump’s decision was that it was necessary for our security to take a stand in support of the world-wide ban on chemical weapons. It was also necessary to show decisiveness, clarity and precision. This limited action shows that we are not the country defined by Mr. Obama, and that bad guys cannot do anything they want and get away with it.


This doesn’t mean he has changed his mind about wanting to be President of the United States, and not the world. He was being President of the United States when he took this action.


President Trump is new to leading on such a level, and to politics – would that all of us were, ugly as it is. He’s unusual for a President, but very smart, smart enough to listen to experts when he needs them. Given half a chance, he’ll do what he promised, and reverse our course from polarization, vacillation, political correctness, discrimination and demonization, to strength and decisiveness based on our core values.


Good job, Mr. President. You started us on the road back to greatness. I wish you and all of us God’s blessing.


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