Saturday, April 8, 2017

Trump Made All the Right Calls This Week

I've been thinking so much myself.

From Walter Russell Mead, at WSJ (via RCP), "In Striking Syria, Trump Made All the Right Calls":
President Trump faced his first serious foreign-policy test this week. To the surprise and perhaps frustration of his critics, he passed with flying colors.

In the first place, the president read the situation correctly. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s horrific and illegal use of chemical weapons against civilians was not merely an affront to international norms. It was a probe by Mr. Assad and his patrons to test the mettle of the new White House.

This must have looked like a good week to challenge Washington. The Trump administration is beset by critics. Most senior national-security posts remain unfilled. The White House is torn by infighting. The Republican Party is divided by the bitter primary campaign and its recent health-care fiasco.

President Trump concluded, correctly, that failing to respond effectively to Mr. Assad’s challenge would invite more probes and more tests. He moved quickly and decisively against the provocation, demonstrating that the days of strategic dithering are gone.

Second, Mr. Trump chose the right response: a limited missile strike against the Syrian air base that, according to American intelligence, had launched the vicious gas attack. This resonated well nearly everywhere. At home, it won approval from Jacksonians and others who want a strong president. The strikes vindicated America’s prestige and dealt a clear setback to those who seek to humiliate or marginalize the U.S. But no ground troops were involved and Mr. Trump made no move toward long-term counterinsurgency or nation-building, the type of campaign that many Americans, his base in particular, have learned to view skeptically.

Internationally, the strike was also popular. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, putting awkward phone calls behind him, spoke up forthrightly in Mr. Trump’s support. So did Canada’s Justin Trudeau, not usually considered a member of the Trump Fan Club, and Germany’s foreign minister, a Social Democrat whose party has been among the most critical of past American military action.

The strike reassured nervous allies, hungry for leadership but concerned about Mr. Trump’s temperament, that he is capable of a measured response intended to support a vital principle of international law. Friends of the U.S. will sweat less, and opponents will sweat more. That is a good thing.

Third, Mr. Trump handled the process well. Congress was briefed but not asked for approval, a decision inside the long-established norms that govern military action by American commanders in chief. Engaging in a war to overthrow Mr. Assad would be another matter, but so far Mr. Trump has stayed well within the mainstream of American presidents dating back to the 18th century.

The Trump administration notified Russia before the U.S. bombed the Syrian airfield. This is a process of its own. If this were the start of a long war, we wouldn’t give our adversaries advance warning about the opening salvo. However, by telling Moscow we were about to strike, the administration was signaling that the engagement would be limited, and the Russians could therefore temper their response. By using cruise missiles, the administration also guaranteed that the action would be impossible to prevent.

Finally, Mr. Trump gets extra points for deftness...
Keep reading.