Donald Trump is the president for our times, and in many ways the last hope for our Western Civilisation and our way of life. But it’s not as if I have never been critical of his approach to issues, and I am not here discussing interest rates but foreign policy. Let me take you to a post I wrote on April 17, 2017: Now what and where does it go from here? This post was also related to the war in Syria which followed Trump bombing Syria after it had used poison gas on children:
It reminds me how lacking in common sense the foreign policy of democratic nations have become. If the same people who support this kind of action are the same as those who put up “Refugees Welcome” signs then the ability to reason about consequences is severely impaired. We are dealing with national interests and protecting our borders and way of life. This is as stupid as “the war on terror” when it is, as Trump used to say, a war on radical Islamic terrorism. Now we are in the midst of a battle to remove chemical weapons from battles. That’s fine as a tenth level issue. There are plenty of ways to kill people, even children. To wallow in how awful it is to see people die this way rather than in some other way is ridiculous. The Allied bombing of Germany killed many many children. It is not a primary war aim, or even secondary, to start worrying about the particular way one side is attacking and killing the other. The aim should be to win or get out. What exactly was Trump trying to do? Completely lost on me.
I had the same sense of loss in the President’s speech in Minnesota the other day when he went on about how awful it is to greet the return of soldiers who have died in the field and to meet with their families. I have no doubt it is, but this is a real war with real consequences if we do not win. There are many things to weigh up in deciding what to do in the Middle East, but the one that is a bottom rung issue, as awful as it no doubt is, is to get bogged down in the emotionalism of the death of our soldiers.
America can now be portrayed as failing to protect its allies, as diminishing its determination to eradicate ISIS, as siding with Turkey against our own genuine allies and as being vulnerable to forms of blackmail that the Islamic State specialises in. To quote again from that previous post.
So let me put it like this: just exactly what are America’s war aims in Syria? And how will I be able to tell when those war aims have been achieved? Here the issue is stated in the way I think of it and the kind of questions that need to be answered before sending the military into conflict:
The outstanding politico-military lesson is an old one: that one clarify one’s aim before one embarks upon a military operation; ruthlessly and objectively dissect and analyse where it will lead, what is to be gained from it, and what one will be faced with when it is over.
If Donald Trump is not prepared to fight this one out, and if a relative handful of soldiers sitting in Syria is an issue in any way, then this is something to really worry about. I not only wrote on this once before, but I did so twice: America’s war aims. I will end this post the same as I did that one.
Let me give the last word to Tom Cotton, who is destined to succeed Donald Trump in 2024.
The world now sees that President Trump does not share his predecessor’s reluctance to use force. And that’s why nations across the world have rallied to our side, while Russia and Iran are among the few to have condemned the attack.
The threat of the use of force — and its actual use when necessary — is an essential foundation for effective diplomacy. Mr. Obama’s lack of credibility is one reason the United States watched in isolation as Russia and Iran took the lead at recent Syrian peace conferences. It’s also why Iran got the better of us in the nuclear negotiations and North Korea has defied us for years.
With our credibility restored, the United States can get back on offense around the world. In Syria, Mr. Assad knows that we have many more Tomahawk missiles than he has airfields. So do his supporters in Moscow and Tehran.
You will notice if you read the article, other than a passing reference at the start to poison gas in Syria, the rest is about the re-establishment of American power. And there is nothing sentimental about that.