Making American foreign policy 'great again'
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Firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at the airport that launched the horrific chemical attack on Syrian civilians sent a clear message around the world. It was heard not just in Damascus, but in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Brussels and Washington.

It was a vindication of Donald Trump’s campaign promise that he would appoint top foreign policy advisors, and listen to them. He marshaled his entire foreign policy team, and they acted in a coordinated, coherent strategy to advance American interests. And he has made it clear that among those interests is preventing crimes against humanity.


Most important, he restored America’s leadership to the world: “Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.”


President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE and his foreign policy team showed leadership and a depth of understanding not only in Syria, but around the world. At a time when the worst of the madmen to rule North Korea is threatening to launch nuclear missiles against the U.S., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued his famously terse response: “North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” News media pretended to be confused by the statement, but his meaning is probably pretty clear to Kim Jong Eun. It certainly was clear to Xi Jinping, who was Trump’s dinner guest when the missiles were launched.

Speaking of Xi, it probably is equally clear to China that their belligerence in the South China Sea, their aggressive building of artificial islands for military bases, and their threats of dominance to U.S. allies in the region, will not be tolerated by the Trump administration. Like Vladimir Putin, they took advantage of the Obama administration’s abdication of world leadership, and rushed in to fill the vacuum, establishing themselves as regional superpowers.

Iran and Syria got the message also. Trump’s very able UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, made it clear that we are not content with destroying weapons and infrastructure, but that using WMD is cause for removal with extreme prejudice. The Assad dynasty in Syria is over, and it is time for Bashar to find a country that will provide him safe haven. Iran has lost its most important ally, and will have to scramble to replace him.

Most important of all, however, is the message that was sent to Moscow. While Vladimir Putin has been playing a poor hand deftly, using a combination of old KGB active measures, propaganda, and surrogates in Europe and the Middle East, Trump made it clear that some behavior is simply unacceptable. Adding punch to his message, Trump did not call Putin first - the Pentagon merely warned Russian forces to stay out of the way to avoid becoming collateral damage.

Trump made it clear that punishing the crime against humanity was an act taken on behalf of the entire world community. In a continued rebuke to Russia, just as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow,aAdministration officials leaked reports that Russia may have been complicit in the chemical attacks and an attempt to cover them up by bombing a hospital.

The administration has countered Putin’s every move, not only in Syria but in Europe too. Although Putin has boldly encouraged the specious belief that he and Trump had a secret understanding - that he was Trump’s puppet master even - Trump has steadily protected American interests and blocked Russian foreign policy. Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Trump himself all have affirmed the centrality of NATO.

The diplomacy has been unequivocal. While missiles were falling, and Trump was dining with Xi Jinping, UN ambassador Nikki Haley was delivering blistering remarks to the UN, not only calling on Assad to step down but calling out Russia for allowing their client state to possess WMD. Trump’s secretary of state followed up with the accusation that Russia was either complicit in the chemical attack or incompetent, because Russian forces had claimed to have cleared out Syrian chemical weapons two years ago.

There is a reason that almost everyone in the world celebrated the missile strike, from Syrian refugees to European statesmen to even the Democrats in Congress. It was a diplomatic tour de force, and testament that the Trump administration is committed to protecting American interests, and more than a match for the “bad hombres” of the world. He appointed good people: H.R. McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson, Haley; he listened to their counsel, and he made good decisions. This is the “reset” of American diplomacy.

Bart Marcois (@BMarcois) was the principal deputy assistant secretary of energy for international affairs during the Bush administration, and was previously a career foreign service officer.
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