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Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump’s Message to the Rest of the World: Time to TAKE ME SERIOUSLY

 John Podhoretz

Thursday night’s US military strike against the Syrian airbase from which the barbaric Assad regime’s sarin-gas attack against its own people was launched was both earth-shaking and modest.
It was modest because it was focused, targeted and limited.
Its specific purpose was to degrade the regime’s ability to work its evil again. In his brief statement, President Trump did not make broad claims or suggest further action was in the offing.
He expressed appropriate outrage at the murder of children with gruesome banned weapons, but based his action in international-law terms — as punishment for Bashir al-Assad violating the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention of which Syria is a signatory.
The use of sarin, he said, is a threat to the “US and its allies.” The president is right.
Chemical weapons need not, after all, be delivered by plane. They can be carried by individuals and released in confined spaces like the Toyko subway system, where a 1995 sarin attack by terrorists resulted in death and horrible injury to dozens and incidental injuries to more than 5,000 people.
Over the past four years, Assad has been making commonplace what was once all but unthinkable — the deployment of a weapon of mass destruction against a civilian population.
And he has been able to make it commonplace because the United States under Barack Obama repeatedly refused to respond to these acts of savage barbarity.
And this is why I say the military strike was earth-shaking as well as modest. In the first major test of Trump’s mettle as president, he has just put the world on notice: He is charting his own course in response to real-world events.
This response seems to contradict many things he has said over the past four years about what the United States should do in Syria, and to overrun the words his own secretary of state spoke about Syria last week.
That makes this militarily modest action even more geopolitically meaningful. Trump is signaling that his Obama-era tweets and his campaign’s naked appeals to isolationism may now be past their sell-by date.
Indeed, he sounded less like a cynical realist than a — dare I say it? — neoconservative.
The rhetoric of his brief statement was striking for its moralism: “We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world,” he said. “We hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail.”
Contrast this with two months ago, when he responded to Bill O’Reilly asking him about Vladimir Putin’s record of killing people with shocking insouciance: “What,” Trump said, “do you think our country’s so innocent?”
What a difference a sarin gas attack makes. And North Korean missile tests.
Trump approved the strike with the prime minister of China in his company. Xi Jinping and Trump are meeting this weekend with the key subject now being the increasingly belligerent and provocative regime in North Korea.
For more than a decade, we have been looking to China to act to end the nuclear ambitions of North Korea by threatening to cut off that regime’s economic lifeline. China has basically refused to act.
Trump’s action last night sends a message to Xi and to the rest of the world:
Take me seriously.

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