A bad week for a rogue

Don­ald Trump sends a flight of mis­siles with a mes­sage

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Ac­tion speaks louder than red lines. Ac­cept­ing the man­tle of the leader of the free world, Don­ald Trump has just done what Barack Obama vowed to do, and never did. The sight of Syr­ian civil­ians mas­sa­cred in a chem­i­cal weapons at­tack prompted Pres­i­dent Trump to pun­ish the As­sad regime in the name of hu­man­ity. Next for a reck­on­ing are Syria’s more for­mi­da­ble pro­tec­tors, Rus­sia and Iran, which have drawn their own red lines. Fresh to the world stage, the deal­maker has put un­ruly pow­ers on no­tice that he is as likely to strike a tar­get as a bar­gain.

Tele­vised video show­ing the fa­tal poi­son­ing of more than 100 civil­ians, 30 of them chil­dren, with sarin gas last week — al­most cer­tainly the work of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad — in­vited a quick re­sponse from the United States. Some­thing should hap­pen, was all Mr. Trump would say. A few hours later, the some­thing was 59 cruise mis­siles, launched from U.S. war­ships in the Mediter­ranean. The mis­siles de­stroyed a Syr­ian air base.

It was a bold move, un­der­taken with­out per­mis­sion from Lower Volta, Up­per Slob­bovia or any­one else at the United Na­tions. He ex­plained why later: “As­sad choked out the lives of help­less men, women and chil­dren. It was a slow, bru­tal death for so many. No child of God should ever suf­fer such hor­ror.”

The events ex­posed the myth that Barack Obama, mak­ing good on his prom­ise to pun­ish As­sad if he crossed Mr. Obama’s “red line,” that Syria had made good on its prom­ise to de­stroy its chem­i­cal weapon ar­se­nal. Mr. Obama had warned Mr. As­sad in 2012 that the use of poi­sonous gas would trig­ger U.S. mil­i­tary ac­tion. Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin agreed to han­dle the dirty work of dis­ar­ma­ment — a task clearly not ac­com­plished.

De­ci­sive ac­tions can trig­ger sud­den con­se­quences, and pieces are start­ing to move quickly across the global chess­board. Rus­sia and Iran is­sued a joint state­ment over the week­end that what Amer­ica waged in an ag­gres­sion on Syria is a cross­ing of red lines. From now on Rus­sia “would re­spond with force to any ag­gres­sor or any breach of red lines from who­ever it is and Amer­ica knows our abil­ity to re­spond well.”

For good mea­sure, Moscow even sent a war­ship steam­ing to­ward the U.S. de­stroy­ers that had fired the mis­siles. By hap­pen­stance, this is the week that Secretary of State Rex Tiller­son will visit Moscow. His dis­cus­sions with Rus­sian of­fi­cials may be jar­ring as each side takes the other’s mea­sure in the age of Trump.

Iran chor­tles that in at­tack­ing As­sad’s forces, the United States has strength­ened the cause of their en­e­mies. “Not even two decades af­ter 9/11, U.S. mil­i­tary is fight­ing on same side as al-Qaeda & ISIS in Ye­men & Syria,” tweeted Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Javad Zarif. It’s a given that friend and foe are shift­ing shapes in the hall of mir­rors that is the Mid­dle East. But un­like Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump did not give the Is­lamic regime’s mul­lahs the ben­e­fit of the doubt to pre­serve the 2015 deal de­lay­ing Iran’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

Un­til such time as an un­clouded crys­tal ball sits on the pres­i­dent’s desk, the guid­ing prin­ci­ple for lead­er­ship has to be a stand for hu­man­ity and against de­prav­ity. Mr. Trump is do­ing just that.

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