Three Reasons Trump's Syria Strike Will Help America
It sends a very clear message to enemies and adversaries that there's a new sheriff in town.
President Donald Trump decided Thursday to send 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base in western Syria in the wake of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians earlier this month. (It’s worth wondering whether these are some of Saddam Hussein’s WMD, which we have long suspected were transported to Syria ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.) Trump’s move, the first time the U.S. has directly targeted Assad, serves America’s foreign policy interests in three ways.
First, the speed with which the retaliatory strike was launched sends the very clear message that Trump will act decisively to protect what he called America’s “vital national security interests.” The scale of the strike also sends a message. Fifty-nine Tomahawks made a mess of the base and the three squadrons of fighters based there. This base is going to need a lot of repairs — and its Russian Su-22s and MiG-23s won’t be easy to replace. In other words, Assad’s feeling the pain, and it goes a little way toward repairing the damage done when Barack Obama didn’t back up his “red line” declaration.
Second, a certain pudgy psychopath in Pyongyang just received 59 warning shots. Trump earlier said that unilateral action against North Korea was an option. Now, that warning is much more credible.
Third, and, we would argue, most important, Vladimir Putin has to be feeling nervous. Between sequestration and the Obama administration’s slashing of weapons procurement like the F-22 and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Pentagon was in a world of hurt. Yet within 72 hours, the United States still crushed Shayrat Air Base. What will the United States be capable of after Trump rebuilds our military capabilities? Putin would be smart to avoid finding out. Russia may be developing some modern systems, but there aren’t many of them in service yet. That hasn’t stopped the Kremlin from pledging to help its client Assad defend against future strikes.
Meanwhile, we expect the Leftmedia will try to paint Trump’s attack as being aimed at countering the Russia-collusion narrative. It does serve that purpose, but we don’t think it was Trump’s motive for risking American blood and treasure. For one thing, the missile strike isn’t Trump’s first move to anger Russia, so if he’s supposed to be bought and paid for, he’s not showing it.
Indeed, strategically, this strike isn’t nearly as important as the tremendous disruption and pain for Putin’s economic base caused by increased American oil production. Russia has been handicapped by this stout competition, and Trump’s moves on energy have only made the U.S. stronger.
Whether this missile salvo signifies a true change in U.S. policy toward Syria or whether we soon return to business as usual remains to be seen.