Trump passes first pres­i­den­tial test on for­eign pol­icy cri­sis

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - MATT MACKOWIAK Matt Mackowiak is the pres­i­dent of Austin­based Po­tomac Strat­egy Group, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant, a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and Bush-Cheney re-elec­tion cam­paign vet­eran, and for­mer press sec­re­tary to two U.S. se­na­tors. He is the host of a na­tion

No one is ever fully pre­pared to be pres­i­dent of the United States. No mat­ter how much ex­pe­ri­ence they have serv­ing in a leg­isla­tive body, as a gov­er­nor or in the Cab­i­net, there is sim­ply no sub­sti­tute for the soli­tude and the weight of the de­ci­sions that face an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent.

De­ci­sions are yours alone, and his­tory is doc­u­ment­ing each one. There are no easy an­swers for prob­lems that ar­rive on the pres­i­den­tial desk.

For­eign pol­icy crises test pres­i­dents in unique ways: In­tel­li­gence can be in­com­plete, for­eign ad­ver­saries can be un­pre­dictable, and in the back of a pres­i­dent’s mind is the par­a­lyz­ing fear that Amer­i­can lives may be lost.

When Pres­i­dent Trump was pre­sented with his first for­eign pol­icy cri­sis last week, forced to de­ter­mine the U.S. re­sponse to a heinous chem­i­cal at­tack un­ques­tion­ably per­pe­trated by Syr­ian pres­i­dent and war crim­i­nal Bashar As­sad, the world looked to the new U.S. pres­i­dent.

Would he be de­ci­sive? Would he re­spond pro­por­tion­ally? Would he be able to unify the coun­try?

The con­sen­sus view, across party lines, is yes. We can de­bate the pre­cise im­pact of fir­ing 59 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles into a Syr­ian air base that U.S. in­tel­li­gence be­lieves was used to launch the chem­i­cal weapons at­tack. We can de­bate whether a new au­tho­riza­tion of mil­i­tary force is needed. We can de­bate what our coun­try’s pol­icy to­ward Syria should be.

But in re­view­ing this pres­i­den­tial de­ci­sion, all Amer­i­cans should pause to con­sider how this de­ci­sion was made, and most will find con­fi­dence in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of an ur­gent for­eign cri­sis.

In this case, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil worked ex­actly as it should, with a newly em­pow­ered, thought­ful and cred­i­ble na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster balanc­ing the eq­ui­ties of our na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and pre­sent­ing op­tions to the pres­i­dent.

The Syr­ian chal­lenge is four-di­men­sional: It’s a Syr­ian civil war, with ISIS op­er­at­ing in the east, and Rus­sia and Iran di­rectly in­volved. There will be no sim­ple so­lu­tion as noth­ing could be ac­cept­able to each of the par­ties in­volved.

This com­plex­ity par­a­lyzed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion when it was con­fronted with the hor­ror of Mr. As­sad’s bru­tal­ity.

Non­govern­men­tal es­ti­mates of how many Syr­i­ans Mr. As­sad has killed since 2011 gen­er­ally start at 200,000 and go up from there.

In the end, Mr. Trump be­lieved in­ac­tion posed far greater risk to the U.S. than ac­tion. In the space of about two days, Mr. Trump con­sid­ered the op­tions with his na­tional se­cu­rity team, and the airstrike was car­ried out with pre­ci­sion by our mil­i­tary.

Crit­ics of­ten say that Mr. Trump is not a man of com­pas­sion, but the images of the chil­dren who were in­dis­crim­i­nately slaugh­tered last week clearly moved him.

With this tar­geted, pro­por­tional mil­i­tary strike, the ben­e­fits will not be lim­ited to Syria. For­eign ad­ver­saries and ter­ror­ists may not have known what to make of Pres­i­dent Trump. Now they do.

He will act. He will act de­ci­sively. He will not be pas­sive.

This ac­tion in Syria puts North Korea, Rus­sia and Iran on no­tice. We can­not fully cal­cu­late the pow­er­ful value of that state­ment.

Go­ing for­ward, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will be judged by the results of its poli­cies, which take time to de­velop and time to carry out.

But in eval­u­at­ing this first con­se­quen­tial pres­i­den­tial de­ci­sion, all Amer­i­cans should be proud of Mr. Trump and en­cour­aged by how well his for­eign pol­icy team ex­e­cuted this im­por­tant mis­sion.

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