It’s about time that an American President projected strength, principle, and fortitude on the world’s stage in the face of terror and tragedy. Gone (thankfully) are the Obama/Kerry apologists who talked tough (like drawing a “red line” over Syrian use of chemical weapons), yet never seemed to muster the courage to act (as when the Assad regime actually called President Obama’s bluff and used chemical weapons on its own people).
The Middle East is a region where strength is respected and weakness is ridiculed and exploited. Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That’s it. That’s exactly what a Great Power should do. A Great Power can speak softly because everyone knows it possesses the big stick. Yet, even that will only work long-term if the Great Power is willing to use the big stick.
If only former President Barack Obama had been paying attention to such lessons. Instead, he began his Administration by apologizing for America’s strength and seeking to soften our image in the Muslim World. A lot of good that did. He projected weakness, not strength, and the United States was viewed throughout the region as a paper tiger that lacked the will to act in its own interests. Look where that has left us, not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world—our enemies no longer fear us, and our allies no longer fully trust us.
Yet, we now have a President who inherited a mess from his predecessor, but who has the desire and will to regain lost influence and respect. He knows that a Great Power does not have to be loved, but that it must be respected. When the President of the United States speaks, the world should listen. It’s listening now.
A few days ago, the Syrian regime of President Assad, once again used chemical weapons on its own civilian population, killing defenseless men, women, and children. This, despite the fact that the Obama Administration had assured the world that the Syrians had given up all of their chemical weapons in 2014. Once again we learn the obvious lesson that one cannot trust the word of a criminal regime like Syria’s. And, once again, we are paying the price of the Obama Administration’s naiveté.
Using chemical weapons on civilians is a war crime. Chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction (the other WMDs are nuclear weapons and biological weapons). Chemical weapons are especially heinous because they inflict intentional pain and suffering on their victims. The wartime use of chemical weapons has been outlawed since the Geneva Protocol in 1925 (which was in response to the killing in WWI of more than 90,000 soldiers by such weapons). Chemical weapons are so awful that the international community drafted a convention (the Chemical Weapons Convention) to outlaw such weapons in 1993. This was partially in response to the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on its own Kurdish citizens and during the Iran-Iraq war. Syria never signed the convention.
When the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians was reported, President Trump decided that the United States could not sit idly by and allow defenseless civilians to be attacked with such weapons. Unlike President Obama, President Trump acted quickly. He took decisive, though limited, action. He ordered the firing of several dozen cruise missiles against the Syrian air base and facilities from which the chemical attack originated. It was a limited attack. It was confined to a legitimate military target. It took place in the early morning hours to minimize the chance of civilian casualties. It fully complied with the Law of Armed Conflict.
By attacking the air base from which the chemical attacks originated, President Trump has sent President Assad a clear message: the Trump Administration is now in office; it is not the Obama Administration; and it will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons being used against Syrian civilians.
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