In the wake of Tuesday’s Syrian chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians, President Barack Obama will be remembered as America’s modern day Neville Chamberlain, the infamous United Kingdom Prime Minister who appeased Nazi Germany in 1938 by signing the Munich Agreement, setting the stage for the holocaust.
Contrast Obama’s negligence with President Donald Trump’s decisive action a mere two days following the Syrian violation of international law. The Syrian government used chemicals to brutalize its citizens in Khan Sheikhoun. President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE immediately denounced the attacks, labeling them, “An affront to humanity.”
Less than 72 hours later he ordered the launch of 60 cruise missiles to destroy the airfield from which the bomb delivering airplanes departed.
If Obama’s passivity in the face of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) deployed in Syria in 2013 lends to Chamberlain comparisons, President Donald Trump’s military action against Syria this week compares favorably to Winston Churchill, Chamberlain’s effective wartime successor.
Just as Chamberlain and Churchill viewed Nazi Germany differently, how could two modern day American presidents see essentially the same horrifying pictures of chemical weapons attack victims and come to two decidedly different conclusions about their terror and an effective response?
Jarring images of Tuesday’s sarin nerve agent attack on its citizens that circulated the world this week were similar to those that went viral in 2013: bodies torqued in gruesome death poses, patients oozing bodily fluids from their mouths and noses, and children running blind through the streets. In 2013, an unimpressed President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhite House debates vaccines for air travel Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward MORE found a passive, ineffective diplomatic solution relying on unreliable Russian oversight. Syria obviously maintained and built its weapons of mass destruction stockpiles. The United Nations was even in on the deal, declaring that there were no more chemical weapons in Syria.
Worse, on Obama’s watch Syria repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions and the Geneva Gas Protocol it had signed in 1953 and 1968, respectively. Many were hopeful when in August 2012, President Obama warned Syria not to cross a “red line” by using chemical and/or biological weapons. A few months later though, in 2013, President Assad and the Syrian state used sarin nerve agent five separate times to attack Syrian citizens, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Too busy campaigning to preserve his legacy, Obama was not even bothered to address a suspected Syrian chlorine gas attack on civilians in August and September of 2016.
In contrast to Obama, President Trump was immediately horrified and driven to an overt, Churchill-like “victory at all costs” style action, sending a clear signal that the U.S. would not stand idly by as its vital interests were threatened. Yes, listed as one of America’s vital interests is, “…a rules based international order that promotes global security.” (Page one of President Obama’s signed preamble to the 2015 National Security Strategy).
With President Trump’s decisive actions, the United States has demonstrated global leadership by upholding international law and leading the free world in defense of its liberties. The issue with collective security arrangements such as the United Nations or Geneva Conventions is that they require leadership to shepherd the laggards through the decision-making, execution, and verification processes. Remember President Ronald Reagan’s statement, “Trust but verify?”
Obama simply trusted. His disinterest in foreign policy was evident around the world: North Korean weapons proliferation, birth and expansion of ISIS, and millions of immigrants and refugees fleeing to Europe. But his legacy foreign policy achievement might be found in Tuesday’s Syrian chemical weapons attack.
While a small, surgical strike, the message that President Trump sent was one of decisive leadership; a stark contrast to the persistent indecision and devaluing of American legitimacy and strength that became the norm during the Obama Administration.
Why does this matter? Other than the harrowing implications for allowing the unfettered use and proliferation of WMD, page 11 of Obama’s own 2015 National Security Strategy lists the “Spread and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction” as a U.S. vital interest. If it’s vital, we must defend it. That’s why we have a National Security Strategy and the National Military Strategy, to guide the security of our nation.
For those arguing that U.S. vital interests were not affected, the Geneva Conventions are the foundation of a “rules based international order.” President Obama’s lack of conviction to the vital interests he allegedly penned has positioned the world, like Chamberlain in 1938, on the brink of geopolitical meltdown.
Thankfully, we have a new administration that believes in adherence to American values and has already demonstrated its commitment to security of the American people.
Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata is a combat veteran, frequent CNN and Fox News foreign policy analyst, President of Kaylatek, LLC, and bestselling author of Besieged.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.