Trump demonstrates truly smart power

Trump's missile strike on Syria is not a sign he's succumbed to the siren call of internationalism or that he thinks the U.S. should be the world's policeman.

Rather, it shows that he and his team understood the situation well enough to craft a response that served U.S. interests without putting U.S. concerns at risk.

The precision strike Trump approved is not going to start a war with Russia, nor did it commit the U.S. to extensive involvement in Syria – but it did hurt what Assad cares about most: the military power that keeps him alive and in charge.

By striking at a key element of Assad's military, his air force, and avoiding damage to Russians, Trump managed to achieve American objectives – deterring further chemical weapon use and signaling that the U.S. is willing to take action when it perceives it necessary – with no risk to American lives, with no risk of significant escalation, and without committing the U.S. to cleaning out the sewer that Syria has become: a sewer, where decent Syrians are being crushed between Assad's fascist regime and Islamofascists.

Contrary to what people like Rand Paul might like, America simply can't be totally isolationistic.  The reality is that we live in an interdependent world, where the U.S. needs to shape events in order to stay safe.  That doesn't mean we should spill American blood in every dispute around the world, but it does mean we need to make as many friends as possible and ensure that asymmetric warfare techniques, such as chemical weapons, that could hurt the U.S. are discouraged.

In the case of this chemical attack, American inaction would have led people to believe that America is cowardly and lacks the will to defend its interests.  Remember: 9/11 occurred because Osama saw how Clinton tucked his tail and ran after the attack on Americans in Somalia.  That show of weakness led Osama to think he could attack America without having to worry about consequences.  Allowing Assad to use chemical weapons, which are an asymmetric threat against the U.S., with impunity would send the message that the U.S., in the words of Chairman Mao, is a "paper tiger."

The reality is that the U.S. greatly benefits from being seen as on the side of good, because we take action against those who would commit atrocities against civilians, as well as from the use of WMD being viewed as unacceptable.

Because the U.S. acted, rather than just bloviated, the perception is that the U.S. actually cares about chemical weapons being used against civilians.  Nothing shows concern more than 59,000 lbs. of explosives.  Under Obama, it was clear that while Obama was more than glad to posture as being opposed to heinous acts, he didn't really care enough to do something to stop them.

Further, the loon in North Korea now knows that what he holds most dear, his military, is at risk if he continues to rattle his rusty sabre at the U.S.

Trump's strike sent several clear messages:

1) The U.S. will exercise its considerable power to ensure that using chemical weapons against civilians has major consequences.

2) The U.S. will not enter into an unwinnable war in Syria just because one side is a bit more evil than the other.

3) Because the U.S. was willing to unilaterally use its power just to advance an international good – discouraging the use of chemical weapons – it's clear that the U.S. is willing to use its power against threats directed at the U.S.

4) Trump does not feel any need to conform U.S. policy to Russian interests.

America has a long history of championing good in the world, which buys the U.S. a lot of friends.  Upholding that tradition while avoiding getting too entangled in foreign wars is something that will benefit the U.S.

But we need to be wary and remember what WWI taught us: barring existential moral issues, like the Holocaust, the U.S. needs to engage in foreign conflicts only when doing so benefits the U.S.  For example, the war in Korea held back the Chinese and Soviet Communists and hence served American interests.  The first Gulf War ensured that Saddam didn't get control over most of the world's oil.  Similarly, the war in Afghanistan dramatically reduced the terrorist infrastructure.

There's no need to panic about Trump suddenly becoming an interventionist.  Rather, we should applaud his reasoned response that advanced American interests.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.

Trump's missile strike on Syria is not a sign he's succumbed to the siren call of internationalism or that he thinks the U.S. should be the world's policeman.

Rather, it shows that he and his team understood the situation well enough to craft a response that served U.S. interests without putting U.S. concerns at risk.

The precision strike Trump approved is not going to start a war with Russia, nor did it commit the U.S. to extensive involvement in Syria – but it did hurt what Assad cares about most: the military power that keeps him alive and in charge.

By striking at a key element of Assad's military, his air force, and avoiding damage to Russians, Trump managed to achieve American objectives – deterring further chemical weapon use and signaling that the U.S. is willing to take action when it perceives it necessary – with no risk to American lives, with no risk of significant escalation, and without committing the U.S. to cleaning out the sewer that Syria has become: a sewer, where decent Syrians are being crushed between Assad's fascist regime and Islamofascists.

Contrary to what people like Rand Paul might like, America simply can't be totally isolationistic.  The reality is that we live in an interdependent world, where the U.S. needs to shape events in order to stay safe.  That doesn't mean we should spill American blood in every dispute around the world, but it does mean we need to make as many friends as possible and ensure that asymmetric warfare techniques, such as chemical weapons, that could hurt the U.S. are discouraged.

In the case of this chemical attack, American inaction would have led people to believe that America is cowardly and lacks the will to defend its interests.  Remember: 9/11 occurred because Osama saw how Clinton tucked his tail and ran after the attack on Americans in Somalia.  That show of weakness led Osama to think he could attack America without having to worry about consequences.  Allowing Assad to use chemical weapons, which are an asymmetric threat against the U.S., with impunity would send the message that the U.S., in the words of Chairman Mao, is a "paper tiger."

The reality is that the U.S. greatly benefits from being seen as on the side of good, because we take action against those who would commit atrocities against civilians, as well as from the use of WMD being viewed as unacceptable.

Because the U.S. acted, rather than just bloviated, the perception is that the U.S. actually cares about chemical weapons being used against civilians.  Nothing shows concern more than 59,000 lbs. of explosives.  Under Obama, it was clear that while Obama was more than glad to posture as being opposed to heinous acts, he didn't really care enough to do something to stop them.

Further, the loon in North Korea now knows that what he holds most dear, his military, is at risk if he continues to rattle his rusty sabre at the U.S.

Trump's strike sent several clear messages:

1) The U.S. will exercise its considerable power to ensure that using chemical weapons against civilians has major consequences.

2) The U.S. will not enter into an unwinnable war in Syria just because one side is a bit more evil than the other.

3) Because the U.S. was willing to unilaterally use its power just to advance an international good – discouraging the use of chemical weapons – it's clear that the U.S. is willing to use its power against threats directed at the U.S.

4) Trump does not feel any need to conform U.S. policy to Russian interests.

America has a long history of championing good in the world, which buys the U.S. a lot of friends.  Upholding that tradition while avoiding getting too entangled in foreign wars is something that will benefit the U.S.

But we need to be wary and remember what WWI taught us: barring existential moral issues, like the Holocaust, the U.S. needs to engage in foreign conflicts only when doing so benefits the U.S.  For example, the war in Korea held back the Chinese and Soviet Communists and hence served American interests.  The first Gulf War ensured that Saddam didn't get control over most of the world's oil.  Similarly, the war in Afghanistan dramatically reduced the terrorist infrastructure.

There's no need to panic about Trump suddenly becoming an interventionist.  Rather, we should applaud his reasoned response that advanced American interests.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.

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