Donald Trump’s quick action on the tragedy in Syria produced significant political benefits for him and the U.S. when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, believing himself secure, decided to use chemical weapons again. It allowed Trump to frame himself as the world leader for the protection of innocent victims of a brutal, heartless dictator.
· Trump can remind everyone of the near universal condemnation of President Obama’s feckless Syrian foreign policy, especially his walking away from his own Red Line in August 2013.
· He demonstrated to President Xi and his North Korean associates that “bad things” can happen very quickly. It also rebukes Russia at a nice point to distract the endless Russian investigation and boost his anti-Kremlin credibility.
· Europe likes it and has been calling for U.S. leadership. Even Merkel has a kind word. Our Middle East allies – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others – never forgave Obama’s weakness or, in their view, disloyalty. It also rebukes Iran, always positive with Sunni allies.
· Dictators of the world took notice. Russia, China, Turkey and North Korea just saw that nationalism of the campaign does not mean isolationism. That there are other influences surveilling around the White House, pulling for a more robust national security policy.
· The action will quiet momentarily Trump’s critics in the Republican national security establishment. McCain, Graham and Rubio were withering in their condemnation of Trump’s and Tillerson’s Syria statements that Assad’s future is up to the Syrian people as a free pass for Assad’s bad behavior. After the chemical attack, they more or less blamed Trump for it. Now, they are praising his action.
· Numerous liberals and Democrats have grudgingly given Trump some praise. Removing Assad was the diplomatic goal of Obama and Secretary Kerry (leading to endless lunches in Geneva) and held by most liberal Middle East analysts, scholars and advocates.