A decisive week for the world
Donald Trump rearranged the landscape with a strike for decency — and himself
Donald Trump finally had a pretty good week after several weeks that were not so good. The U.S. Senate finally confirmed Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, overcoming partisan opposition for opposition’s sake, and his missile strike on the government forces of Bashar al-Assad stunned nearly everybody, destroying the Syrian air force base that launched the chemical strikes on Assad’s own people.
One of the president’s onetime critics said Mr. Trump had at last established himself as “the leader of the free world,” a title that presidents before him had taken for granted. For once, the Democratic leadership put aside its pout and stood up to join bipartisan support for a president’s swift and decisive punishment for an enemy of the civilized world.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who led a pointless weeks-long assault on Neil Gorsuch, rallied behind the president and his assertion of decency in Syria. “Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price [and that’s] the right thing to do.”
Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, was a bit grudging, urging a debate on what the limits of President Trump’s authority to make further war on Assad, but she said the missile strike “appears to be a proportional response to the [Assad] regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
Such a debate is a good idea. The American public clearly does not have an appetite for another war in the Middle East any more than Mr. Trump himself said he did during the late presidential campaign. But some of the loudest praise for Mr. Trump’s decisive action comes from members of the late and lamented administration of Barack Obama, who delivered big talk, red lines and what he might do about Assad, and then did nothing. “This shows the moral depravity of the last administration,” one former member of the Obama administration tells a blogging pundit for the Council on Foreign Relations. “I’m stunned.”
Indeed, the strike was ordered by a president we haven’t seen before. Mr. Trump has been, and perhaps still is, wary of American interventions in crises abroad. Ordering 59 missiles on an air field after tipping the Russians, and no doubt through them the Syrians, that destruction was on the way and they should (and did) get out of the way, is not the same as ordering a regiment of Marines to their landing boats. But it was, in fact, stunning.
This should put to rest the notion that Donald Trump has made some sort of secret accord with the Russians, that he would defer American interests to those of Moscow. Many Democrats in the Insurrection movement have been telling each other this since the November election. But now Vladimir Putin himself calls the Tomahawk missile strike a violation of international law and “a significant blow” to U.S.-Russian relations.
In addition to the humanitarian justice of the strike, Mr. Trump sent a needed message to the purveyors of trouble elsewhere that the new president bears small resemblance to the president who preceded him. President Xi Jinping of China, by happy coincidence, was the president’s weekend guest at Mar-a-Lago, and had a ringside seat as the Syrian strike and the aftermath unfolded. “The crazy fat kid” in Pyongyang continues to rattle his nuclear toys, with new boasts that he has taken the United States “to the brink.” He, too, got a demonstration that he is dealing with a new kind of president.
Nikki Haley, the new ambassador to the United Nations, has given the delegates the word that there’s a new sheriff in town, and they should understand they’re dealing with a new reality. There’s a new high sheriff in Washington, too, and the week that was has lessons for everyone.