So there we were commentating away on CNN last Thursday night. There was a commercial break and a different segment that had we commentator-types excused for twenty minutes. We were no sooner untethered from microphones and ear pieces and settled in the Green Room when it quickly became apparent Something Had Happened.
The “Something” of course was that news arrived President Trump had launched some 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in retaliation for Assad’s chemical weapons attack — sarin gas — on his own people. It was big news indeed, and not just because of the attack itself.
The attack was news because it was a 180-degree reversal of the Obama “Red Line” policy that turned out to be a “No Line” policy that did absolutely zero to punish Assad for his last chemical weapons attack — unless, of course, you count that Obama administration negotiated agreement with the Syrians that got rid of all their chemical weapons. And if you doubt that agreement, just listen to then-Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama NSC adviser Susan Rice on the subject.
Here’s Kerry: “We got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”
Here’s Rice: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”
And to remind, here’s a CNN account of what happened early this month:
Survivors of Syrian attack describe chemical bombs falling from sky
(CNN) Survivors of a deadly airstrike in Syria have described chemical bombs being dropped from planes, in accounts that directly contradicted the Assad regime’s version of a dawn attack that drew condemnation around the world.…
The strike, one of the deadliest of its kind since the Syrian war began six years ago, killed at least 70 people, including children.
So. In lieu of all of this, the Trump attack delivered a simple message. To wit: There’s a new sheriff in town. Don’t mess with him.
In fact? There is nothing new here. What President Trump delivered to Syria the other night was one of the oldest messages in human history, a message that unfortunately repeatedly gets forgotten. The message: There is peace through strength. And if a peaceful nation warns a bully to stop its bullying behavior — woe betide the peaceful nation if it doesn’t carry through with its warning.
The most vivid example of this, of course, was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s repeated appeasement of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. One aggression after another was committed by Hitler, and Chamberlain, over the vociferous objections of a benched Winston Churchill, acceded to Hitler’s demands. Inevitably Hitler, convinced that the British were all about appeasement and weakness, finally began his all-out war against Europe and Britain, with bombs raining down on London itself in what became known as The Blitz. Tens of thousands of London residents and Brits outside the capital city were killed. History’s old lesson was served up as a reminder yet again.
None of this means Trump has changed his mind about the other lesson of recent history — which is that just because you invade a country to rid the world of a tyrant, peace through nation-building will not necessarily follow in the sense that Country X is “Americanized.” Decades ago there was a U.S. Senator whose name escapes. He was waxing on the wonders of the Korean War and enthused that it was his hope that Korea would be lifted up-and-up until it was just like Kansas City. In fact, no shock, South Korea — free nation and courageous ally that it is — became… South Korea, not Kansas City. Is South Korea free and democratic? Yes. But most assuredly, as its recent uproar surrounding the impeachment of the South Korean president illustrates, South Korea is still very much South Korea. Japan in the wake of World War II, rebuilt under the auspices of General Douglas MacArthur, became free and democratic yes. But it became a free and democratic Japan… not Kansas City.
Over at Laura Ingraham’s Lifezette is this story featuring Iraq war veterans with their advice to the President:
Iraq War Veterans Warn Against Syrian Entanglement
U.S. servicemen say expanded intervention risks ‘worst-case scenario’ of regional conflict
The story begins as follows:
Almost as soon as the first cruise missile struck Syrian government forces Thursday evening, a furious debate over the prudence of the action began to build. While the strike was among the first actions taken by President Donald Trump to garner bipartisan support from lawmakers, it generated intense criticism within much of Trump’s base. This includes veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom were drawn to Trump’s campaign message of avoiding entanglement in Middle Eastern conflicts, particularly in regards to Syria.
True enough. But there is zero evidence that Trump is contemplating a Bush-style invasion of Syria. The last thing this President would want, it can be more than reasonably assumed from his multiple of statements on the campaign trail and since his election is a nation-building invasion of Syria.
In April of 1986, in response to the bombing of a popular West Berlin discotheque (this was still the Cold War and Berlin was not yet re-united) frequented by American soldiers, Ronald Reagan ordered an air strike on the bombing perpetrators — the Libyans. It took all of twelve minutes for F-111s and other jets to pound Tripoli and a Qaddafi retreat, almost killing the dictator himself. The mission cost the lives of two American pilots. There was no invasion of Libya. But there was a message delivered: don’t attack Americans and think you will get away unscathed.
Reagan is often cited in this space as the model for an American president when it comes to the use of force. In eight years he invaded but one country — Grenada in the fall of 1983. And that because of an active attempt to overthrow the government and turn the island nation into a new Cuba — a Communist base in the Caribbean. Not to mention that there were American medical students in school on the island who were suddenly hostages. Reagan sent in the troops, used overwhelming force — and the island went back into the hands of its residents. The Americans were saved. The message of Peace Through Strength was sent.
This came on the heels of a terrorist attack on a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, where Americans had been sent as part of an international peace-keeping mission. Some 243 Marines were killed. Reagan, stricken, responded not with an invasion but shellings from the newly-off-shore presence of the battleship New Jersey and targeted air strikes launched by the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy. But by early 1984 Reagan began withdrawing the remaining Marines. The last thing he was going to do was invade Lebanon.
There is no reason to believe that President Trump is doing anything other than the 2017 version of what President Reagan did with Libya in 1986 and Lebanon in 1984. A show of force with a military strike? Yes — leave no doubt that America will stand up for its interests. (And no, letting a chemical weapons attack in Syria go unanswered is not in U.S. interests. America did this with Obama — and inevitably all it did is bring another attack.) But without doubt, invading Syria to pursue nation-building? To try and lift Damascus up and up until it is Kansas City? Hardly a good idea.
The best response to the gassing of those innocents in Syria is exactly the response delivered by President Trump.
Message delivered by the new sheriff.
Bravo, Mr. President.
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