No Longer 'Leading From Behind'
As you know, President Trump ordered a missile strike on a military base in Syria in response to the Syrian government's chemical weapons attack earlier this week, which killed more than 80 civilians. The target of the missile strike was the airbase from which the chemical weapons attack had been launched. Here are my thoughts.
- Trump and the United States military sent a strong message yesterday that the days of the U.S. "leading from behind," the phrase one of President Obama's advisors used to describe that administration's approach to foreign affairs, are over.
- After the chemical attacks, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivered an impassioned speech excoriating Russia over its role in supporting the Assad regime in Syria. Following the speech, she received a text message from another ambassador on the U.N. Security Council, saying, in Haley's words, "Thank you for what you said today. It's so good to see America lead."
- Trump's strike on the Assad regime is full of irony. For one thing, it was President Obama who in 2012 said that the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons on civilians would be a "red line," which, if crossed, would warrant U.S. military action. The Assad regime crossed that line but Obama did nothing. Trump has in effect enforced Obama's red line five years after the fact.
- Another irony: Since he began running for president, Trump has been portrayed in the media as uncompassionate. His goal of tightening up the vetting process for refugees entering the United States has been seen as evidence of his cruelty and bigotry. But Trump said it was the images of women and children writhing in pain from the chemical attack that prompted him to act. "It was a slow and brutal death for so many, even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack," Trump said in announcing the successful attack last night. "No child of God should ever suffer such horror."
- Keep in mind, Trump acted under more perilous circumstances than Obama faced. Since Obama set his "red line" and then retreated from the region, the Russians have filled the vacuum. Which raises a third irony.
- According to the Left, Trump and Putin colluded to win the presidential election. The Left believes Russia wanted Trump to win because he'd be much easier to push around than Hillary Clinton. That scenario never made sense to me, as I outlined here. I doubt this morning that Putin would agree with the Left's assessment. Remember that it was Obama and Clinton whose weak policies invited Putin into the Middle East after we and our allies had kept the Russians out since World War II.
- The Pentagon says this strike doesn't signal the beginning of war with Syria. Trump has always been skeptical of regime change, and, as is usually the case in the Middle East, there's no telling what would replace Assad should he be thrown out of power. There are more than 1,000 entities fighting in Syria, and there doesn't seem to be anything that can be described as a viable democratic force for the U.S. to support. Probably the best option for now is to finish the job of eradicating ISIS fighters from the region and to try to strike a deal with Russia to remove Assad.
- It was striking this morning to see Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, all of whom have had major disagreements with Trump, praising the president for his courage and steadfastness in ordering the strike. I was also amazed by the poise Trump exhibited as he announced the attack. He was in the middle of a state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Such an event would normally command the full attention of the president. But even while taking that meeting, Trump was being briefed by military officials about the strike he had ordered. I would have loved to be in Xi's mind as he was pondering this.
- The next few days and weeks will be very important. There are many questions: Will anybody strike back at us? What will Russia do? Will Iran react, perhaps through its proxy Hezbollah? No matter what happens, Trump is sending a strong signal to Assad, Putin, the mullahs in Iran and the entire world that there's a new sheriff in town.
Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed today by the Senate to become the 113th justice of the Supreme Court. Gorsuch won 54 votes in favor and 46 against confirmation. As someone who will interpret the Constitution as it was originally written, Gorsuch is an ideal heir to Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
Gorsuch's confirmation already arguably makes Donald Trump the most pro-life president in history in terms of Supreme Court picks. Republican presidents have had an unfortunate tendency to nominate moderates to the high court. But Trump made it clear from the beginning that he'd nominate a judge from a list of about 21 candidates vetted by conservative legal groups. He followed through on that promise by nominating Gorsuch.
We are proud, with your support of playing a role in this victory!