The Trump Doctrine

With the Syrian air strike, Donald Trump has demonstrated his ability to be decisive and nimble.  His course of action was that of a bold, unpredictable risk-taker.  It's the very opposite of what Barack Obama was.  That steadier hand, unaffected by media flatterers as Obama was, shows a more direct independent and non-doctrinaire approach that can be called the Trump Doctrine: to try friendly negotiations (in domestic and foreign affairs) first, and should that approach go nowhere, a resort to force will follow.

The strike on Syria's airbase at Shayrat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles is a small but meaningful and measured wake-up call to the world to demonstrate this doctrine.  U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley delivered an impassioned plea for changes in the region, but her calls fell on deaf ears, and the U.N. took no action.  The result was Trump taking action, like a new sheriff in town, signaling to other bellicose dictators that he is capable of using and ready to use military power to halt human rights violations and restore American pre-eminence.  That is at least some of what he meant by making America great again.

Interestingly, some on the left and right have expressed concerns about this action.  They called it illegal since there was no direct authorization from Congress.  The War Powers Act of 1973 does allow presidential action but requires follow-up with Congress. 

While that debate will rage on, the air strike itself has accomplished much.  Despite the risk of unintended consequences and possible reactions from Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad; Russian president Vladimir Putin; or Iran's terrorist proxy, Hezb'allah, Trump's quick response to Syrian use of sarin gas on Tuesday against innocent civilians has many potential benefits.

The international effect will take time to understand but is clearly a warning to other countries.  To take but one example, the Pacific Rim: Chinese president Xi Jinping was told over dinner about the attack, and for him the news of Trump's decisive act was relevant because of its potential application to China's bid to build islands as forward operating bases in the South China Sea.  It's also relevant because China has a record of supporting North Korea as a client state.  As for North Korea itself, its dictator, Kim Jong-un, closely watches such American actions from afar, too, and will take note.  For U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, both of which fear Kim, the airstrikes amount to a demonstration of decisiveness and therefore are cause for thanks.

In the Middle East, the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Saudis are now strengthened by the replacement of Obama by Trump.  The strike on Assad helps restore the traditional balance favoring the Sunnis, not the Iranian Shia, which America had tilted toward under Obama.  As a member of the Alawite sect, Assad is linked to the Shia, meaning that the U.S. air strike also sends a message to the leaders in Iran.  Surprisingly, the mullahs have been muted in their response to the airstrike, in a significant departure from the Obama period. 

Syria has allowed our approximately 1,000 soldiers to operate within their territory.  That relative freedom of action might be endangered now, but Assad struggles for survival and would have little power to stop it.  Widening his battles with the U.S. would not likely help his prospects, because the U.S. could have extended its strikes to all six Syrian airbases and might still do it.  So this limited attack lets Assad know that his survival is on the line based on his brutal behavior but does not immediately remove him.  It stands in stark contrast to Obama's action in Libya, which removed dictator Moammar Gaddafi and destabilized that country, leading to ISIS's expansion.  Again, Trump used past experience to inform actions, both to limit risk and to maximize potential benefit.

Russia might decide to test us further in the Baltics or Ukraine, but if it does, Putin now must consider U.S. potential responses first.  For those still arguing for a Trump-Putin alliance, it's clear that that is now unlikely. 

Hezb'allah might be inclined to strike American interests throughout the world, too.  Iran might encourage it, but perhaps even more likely, it might discourage it, since it can't be sure how the U.S. will react.  The failure of the Obama administration to destroy all the chemical stores of Syria calls into question what the success of the Obama-Iran deal really was. 

On the domestic front, Trump did argue against involvement in Syria during his presidential campaign.  Yet he also saw that the use of chemical weapons threatens our troops worldwide from terrorists and other radicals.  So his shift showed a capacity to adjust to realities, showing that he is nimble, a characteristic quite rare in the political world.  This strike also shows how strongly he can act.

During the next few days, we will discover the impact of what Trump wrought upon our enemies.  The world can be sure that a decisive and resolute person now occupies the White House.  We must defeat ISIS, and with Trump's strong leadership, in evidence by this air strike, the Sunni Arab nations may now be convinced to follow our lead and participate.

The Middle East is still a mess, and it is time now to start fixing the mess.  The Trump air strikes were a powerful opening for getting that done.

With the Syrian air strike, Donald Trump has demonstrated his ability to be decisive and nimble.  His course of action was that of a bold, unpredictable risk-taker.  It's the very opposite of what Barack Obama was.  That steadier hand, unaffected by media flatterers as Obama was, shows a more direct independent and non-doctrinaire approach that can be called the Trump Doctrine: to try friendly negotiations (in domestic and foreign affairs) first, and should that approach go nowhere, a resort to force will follow.

The strike on Syria's airbase at Shayrat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles is a small but meaningful and measured wake-up call to the world to demonstrate this doctrine.  U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley delivered an impassioned plea for changes in the region, but her calls fell on deaf ears, and the U.N. took no action.  The result was Trump taking action, like a new sheriff in town, signaling to other bellicose dictators that he is capable of using and ready to use military power to halt human rights violations and restore American pre-eminence.  That is at least some of what he meant by making America great again.

Interestingly, some on the left and right have expressed concerns about this action.  They called it illegal since there was no direct authorization from Congress.  The War Powers Act of 1973 does allow presidential action but requires follow-up with Congress. 

While that debate will rage on, the air strike itself has accomplished much.  Despite the risk of unintended consequences and possible reactions from Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad; Russian president Vladimir Putin; or Iran's terrorist proxy, Hezb'allah, Trump's quick response to Syrian use of sarin gas on Tuesday against innocent civilians has many potential benefits.

The international effect will take time to understand but is clearly a warning to other countries.  To take but one example, the Pacific Rim: Chinese president Xi Jinping was told over dinner about the attack, and for him the news of Trump's decisive act was relevant because of its potential application to China's bid to build islands as forward operating bases in the South China Sea.  It's also relevant because China has a record of supporting North Korea as a client state.  As for North Korea itself, its dictator, Kim Jong-un, closely watches such American actions from afar, too, and will take note.  For U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, both of which fear Kim, the airstrikes amount to a demonstration of decisiveness and therefore are cause for thanks.

In the Middle East, the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Saudis are now strengthened by the replacement of Obama by Trump.  The strike on Assad helps restore the traditional balance favoring the Sunnis, not the Iranian Shia, which America had tilted toward under Obama.  As a member of the Alawite sect, Assad is linked to the Shia, meaning that the U.S. air strike also sends a message to the leaders in Iran.  Surprisingly, the mullahs have been muted in their response to the airstrike, in a significant departure from the Obama period. 

Syria has allowed our approximately 1,000 soldiers to operate within their territory.  That relative freedom of action might be endangered now, but Assad struggles for survival and would have little power to stop it.  Widening his battles with the U.S. would not likely help his prospects, because the U.S. could have extended its strikes to all six Syrian airbases and might still do it.  So this limited attack lets Assad know that his survival is on the line based on his brutal behavior but does not immediately remove him.  It stands in stark contrast to Obama's action in Libya, which removed dictator Moammar Gaddafi and destabilized that country, leading to ISIS's expansion.  Again, Trump used past experience to inform actions, both to limit risk and to maximize potential benefit.

Russia might decide to test us further in the Baltics or Ukraine, but if it does, Putin now must consider U.S. potential responses first.  For those still arguing for a Trump-Putin alliance, it's clear that that is now unlikely. 

Hezb'allah might be inclined to strike American interests throughout the world, too.  Iran might encourage it, but perhaps even more likely, it might discourage it, since it can't be sure how the U.S. will react.  The failure of the Obama administration to destroy all the chemical stores of Syria calls into question what the success of the Obama-Iran deal really was. 

On the domestic front, Trump did argue against involvement in Syria during his presidential campaign.  Yet he also saw that the use of chemical weapons threatens our troops worldwide from terrorists and other radicals.  So his shift showed a capacity to adjust to realities, showing that he is nimble, a characteristic quite rare in the political world.  This strike also shows how strongly he can act.

During the next few days, we will discover the impact of what Trump wrought upon our enemies.  The world can be sure that a decisive and resolute person now occupies the White House.  We must defeat ISIS, and with Trump's strong leadership, in evidence by this air strike, the Sunni Arab nations may now be convinced to follow our lead and participate.

The Middle East is still a mess, and it is time now to start fixing the mess.  The Trump air strikes were a powerful opening for getting that done.