President Trump did not intend to spend his first 100 days focusing on foreign policy, but world events rarely cater to the political desires or policy agendas of America’s presidents. Instead, President Trump played the hand he was dealt. And contrary to his Democrat critics, he played it expertly.
To be clear, Trump was dealt a losing hand. Under President Obama, the United States receded from its status as a military power, the result of a flawed political calculus and the lack of a coherent foreign policy strategy. Although there were many so-called “Obama doctrine’s” bandied about during President Obama’s time in the Oval Office he came to be defined by his failures in the Middle East.
His hasty desire to put Iraq in the rearview mirror undermined the fragile democracy and resurrected the specter of the failed state. He was overly dismissive of al-Qaeda, saying that it was “on its heels” and has “been decimated.” He was similarly dismissive of ISIS, labeling it a “J.V. team.” His waffling on Libya and strategy of “leading from behind” pushed it towards chaos, and it remains a harbor for jihadists that are destabilizing Africa. And most recently, drew a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and when it was crossed his Secretary of State, John Kerry, promised that any strike on chemical weapons facilities would be “unbelievably small.”
The result of the chronic underestimation of sectarian threats, the clear desire to get out of the Middle East, and the tragic waffling on the use of force resulted in a power vacuum that has been filled by evil.
Claudia Rosett writes for The Hill:
That’s big, in ways that go way beyond the immediate battlefields. In a world grown dramatically more dangerous during President Obama’s eight years of appeasement and retreat, America badly and urgently needs to restore its lost credibility.
It would be great if diplomats could protect America, its allies and its interests with words alone. But in matters involving aggressive tyrannies, words don’t mean much unless they are backed up by military muscle and the credible willingness to use force. When that threat goes missing, predators take notice.
It’s also clear that when America backs down, the threats tend to compound. Predatory regimes tend to do business together, observe each other and learn from each other.
In just three short weeks, President Trump has shown that America’s words mean something, that it’s red lines can not be crossed, and that it will not stand idly by while regimes bent on destruction stockpile weapons.
He accomplished it by launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase after Syrian President Bashar al Assad once again opted to use chemical weapons against his own people. And he put an exclamation point on it by deploying the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat, on an underground ISIS tunnel system in Afghanistan.
Assad and ISIS no doubt received the message, but there’s also little question that regimes like North Korea, which recently displayed several new missile technologies in a recent military parade, have been put on notice.
“The era of strategic patience is over,” Vice President Mike Pence said on a visit to the demilitarized zone. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”
Columnist Charles Krauthammer phrased it differently. “Eight years of sleepwalking is over.St America is back.”
Whether we’ve been strategically patient or sleepwalking doesn’t matter anymore. Trump has made clear that he intends to strongly defend American interests, with force if necessary.
George Washington once said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” Ronald Reagan argued that “American strength is once again a sheltering arm for freedom in a dangerous world.” Now, with the world becoming more fragile by the year Donald Trump is once again deploying a foreign policy based on peace through strength.