There’s been a lot of wailing and hand-wringing over President Trump’s missile strike against the Syrian airbase from which the recent Sarin gas attack was allegedly launched. There’ve also been some outright condemnations of his strike as a betrayal of his campaign pledges. Such lamentations are overwrought and misguided, as I hoped my DextroSpheric colleagues would have figured out for themselves. However, a significant number thereof haven’t figured it out.
Sigh. And I had so hoped to take Palm Sunday off!
War gases are considered weapons of mass destruction: i.e., weapons whose effects are large-scale and indiscriminate. American policy concerning such weapons is and has long been that their acquisition by lesser powers shall be strongly discouraged; their use shall not be permitted. Such a policy implies that uses of WMDs will be punished proportionately to the occurrence. The cruise-missile reprisal against the nominal source of the Sarin was perfectly consistent with that policy. I’d hoped that this essay would have illuminated the reasons such a policy is:
- Yet does not commit the U.S. to war.
Now, there are those who disagree with the policy. They’re entitled to do so, though their arguments strike me as unsound. But that it is the policy of the United States and has been so for decades cannot be denied. Barack Hussein Obama even conceded that with his famous “red line” remarks, though he lacked the moral fiber to follow through on them.
President Trump acted on that policy according to the best information available to him. Those who disagree with the intelligence assessments on which he based his decision, like those who disagree with the policy itself, are entitled to their opinions. But such decisions have never been made (and never will be made) on the basis of a plebiscite. Like it or not, the president must trust that the information he’s offered by his military and intelligence advisors is reliable. Whether it is reliable is a separate question, which no one in my position should try to answer.
The second noteworthy aspect of these events is that Trump acted promptly. He didn’t dither or vacillate. He did what he thought best and most consistent with U.S. policy. The contrast this makes with the Obama Administration is striking indeed.
Just as it is for business, uncertainty is the great enemy of international peace. If a great power is known to be highly variable in its decisions and actions, to the point of complete unpredictability, the rest of world will be destabilized to some extent. Conditions in pre-World War I Europe provide a good comparison: Kaiser Wilhelm II, who commanded the strongest single military in the Old World, was notably wild and erratic. Had he been less so, the chances of a continent-absorbing war would have been lessened as well.
The other powers of the First and Second Worlds are now aware that Trump will act decisively, at least when he believes he has the necessary facts in hand. America’s allies can consider themselves reassured of his commitment to longstanding American policy. America’s adversaries have been put on notice that he won’t refrain from a bold move just because some other power – e.g., the press – will disapprove.
The third point relevant to the cruise-missile strike is that by taking that action specifically, President Trump averted all risk to American personnel. No American blood would be shed in the action. As American casualties are the greatest public-relations demerit that accrues to an administration that goes to war, Trump’s choice of methods was ideal. Neither did it commit us to further military action in the Middle Eastern theater.
Despite that, the world is now on notice that the Trump Administration means to enforce our policy of punishing the use of weapons of mass destruction. Note that “the world” includes North Korea and Iran, both states that have pursued the acquisition of nuclear weapons and delivery systems for them. Note also that no other power has done more than deplore the gas attack; only America has acted.
Many Americans dislike the U.S.’s assumption of “world policeman” status. I dislike it myself. But as with piracy on the high seas, the use of weapons of mass destruction must be regarded as inimical to all Mankind. That others refuse to act does not release us from the obligation, especially as it was the U.S. that promulgated the dictum that WMDs shall not be used except in direst need.
Given all the above, why are so many – especially in the Right – morose about President Trump’s action? It would seem to me to have been in the best interests of the entire world, while not at all compromising to the interests of the United States.
I have no answer. Of course, there are some who are never satisfied with the decisions of any administration. There are others who specifically dislike Trump and wish he’d go away. And there are some among his supporters who suspect that a pro-war cabal among Trump’s advisors is gaining influence over him that will eventually result in the sort of endless, pointless Middle Eastern war that has wearied the entire nation.
Perhaps we should trust this president. He’s been true to his word so far, even considering the recent “failure” of the GOP to pass the American Health Care Act. He’s certainly proved more trustworthy than his predecessor...who, by the way, is deeply involved in operations designed to rally opposition to the Trump / GOP agenda despite all his protestations of support for his successor.
We elected Donald Trump to the presidency. For my part, I intend to support him unless and until it becomes impossible. It’s a course I commend to all my Gentle Readers.