American Strength is Back in Play
Perhaps the most controversial move of Trump's presidency among his supporters has been the decision to bomb a Syria airbase in response to a nerve gas attack on a civilian population. There has been much said about the strangeness of Bashir al-Assad supposedly using chemical weapons just when he is winning big and our own Tim Levchenko-Scott has voiced his disappointment in Trump's reaction. Let's take a look at the flip-side. Let's delve into why it might have been a great idea for Assad to gas his own people (again) and why Trump's response is a harbinger of good things to come.
Scott Adams has a list of 7 reasons why Trump's tomahawk missile response was a good one, and since I had independently thought of a few and agree with all of them, we might as well list them here:
1. President Trump just solved for the allegation that he is Putin’s puppet. He doesn’t look like Putin’s puppet today. And that was Trump’s biggest problem, which made it America’s problem too. No one wants a president who is under a cloud of suspicion about Russian influence.
2. President Trump solved (partly) for the allegation that he is incompetent. You can hate this military action, but even Trump’s critics will call it measured and rational. Like it or not, President Trump’s credibility is likely to rise because of this, if not his popularity. Successful military action does that for presidents.
3. President Trump just set the table for his conversations with China about North Korea. Does China doubt Trump will take care of the problem in China’s own backyard if they don’t take care of it themselves? That negotiation just got easier.
4. Iran might be feeling a bit more flexible when it’s time to talk about their nuclear program.
5. Trump’s plan of a Syrian Safe Zone requires dominating the Syrian Air Force for security. That just got easier.
6. After ISIS is sufficiently beaten-back, the Syrian government will need to negotiate with the remaining entities in Syria to form a lasting peace of some sort that keeps would-be refugees in place. Syria’s government just got more flexible. It probably wants to keep the rest of its military.
7. Israel is safer whenever an adversary’s air power is degraded.
There aren't really any downsides to the action that Trump has taken, as long as the goal is not to topple Assad (unless of course, he has a better candidate for replacement, which to my knowledge, no one does). As much as he is a terrible monster, Assad is also a secular dictator who runs what was basically one of the last safe places in the Muslim world for Christians, Yazidis, and Shiites. It was, before ISIS gained a foothold.
What excites me most about Trump's tomahawk missile strike is that the "paper tiger" is dead. Saddam Hussein's downfall came largely because he never actually believed George W. Bush would pull the trigger. He thought he could look tough by refusing to play ball with U.N. demands. And he would have gotten away with it too, but W was a "no nonsense" kind of guy who came in guns blazing and the rest is history. Bashar al-Assad is in a similar position. He tested Barack Obama time and time again the so-called "red line" was ignored. Other dictators were toppled by Obama, but Assad must have felt fairly safe with Russian backing and American inaction. In these middle-eastern cultures, the perception of strength is everything. In America Alone, Mark Steyn wrote about how he could sit safety in an Iraqi cafe a few short weeks after the fall of Saddam, but the next year, three Americans were murdered in the same spot. Only one thing had changed: the perception of American strength. The "long war" had begun and concepts like "nation building" and "democracy" were touted. But the projection of weakness was the only message the Islamists received.
Perhaps, like Saddam's attempt to continue projecting defiance against the West, this attack was actually an attempt to show strength by Assad. He is currently winning against ISIS and for the first time had both Russian and America on his side. If there was ever a "good time" to test Trump's resolve, this was it. A single nerve gas attack which resulted in only a small handful of deaths. A risky move that we might think is insane, but this might have been a very logical and calculated move by Assad to increase his standing in the Arab world after he regains control of his nation. Indeed, so far it doesn't seem to have gone so badly for him. He's down about half an airbase, but his neighbours now all know for sure that he's got WMDs, and more importantly, Assad now knows a lot about how Trump will react. He knows that the Obama era is over. And so does the rest of the world.
Kim Jong Un is doing the same thing, the only catch is that unlike Bashar, Kim is actually insane. How will North Korea react with American warships bearing down on it? We probably won't have to wait long to find out. We've experienced 8 years with America basically absent on the world stage, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy consisted of droning a dozen random hell-holes and creating huge power vacuums. The "world police" are back, and with 60 tomahawk missiles, it means they're back in style. Sure, the "bad guys" like the neo-cons, the globalists, the left, might be happy. But that doesn't mean we can't be happy too. Unlike the left, we don't have to pretend this is about "the children," because, quite frankly, whether you're being killed by bombs, bullets, knives, or sarin gas, it doesn't really make a difference when you end up dead all the same. The "red line" about chemical weapons is about looking tough. It's about policing behaviour and enforcing a set of global rules. When it works, it keeps the crazy Islamists and Communists in line. When it is absent, the fabric of our increasingly connected societies starts to fall apart. We may not like the way it is, but there is no denying the truth. A strong America that pushes its weight around can be a force for good in the world. Trump must of course be careful, when a president like Bush pushes his weight around too much it opens us all to the risk of a weak successor like Obama leaving massive power vacuums. Balance is important.
If Trump leaves the world safer that he found it, his presidency may not have been the pure "America first" that many of his supporters envisioned, but since I am not an American, I am glad he isn't leaving the rest of the world out in the cold to be consumed by the ever expanding void of evil.