President Obama’s long holiday from history is now officially over. Last night, Donald Trump started the hard work of reclaiming America’s status as a great power. It is important to recognize now that last night was a very good start, but to be successful in the long run America will have to do more than just punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons.
For four years, we’ve been hearing that Bashar al-Assad gave up all his poison gas, and that it was impossible for the United States to respond militarily while he, with the indispensable assistance of Russia and Iran, murdered 500,000 of his own people. In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen definitively that both those statements, which were endlessly repeated by President Obama and his Echo Chamber, for years on end, are utterly false.
Having demonstrated that, it is incumbent on President Trump to help erase the shame of America’s complicity in the Syrian genocide. He must continue to put significant pressure on Assad to abdicate — pressure that goes beyond pious tweets and statements of the kind at which the former UN Ambassador Samantha Power excelled.
In doing so, he cannot expect support from Russia and Iran—on the contrary, they will seek to thwart him at every turn. Their hostility will certainly complicate the task, in the short term, of defeating ISIS. In the long run, however, it will make the effort of putting in place a post-ISIS order easier. Once Trump demonstrates to America’s traditional allies in the region (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE) that, in contrast to Obama, he will not hesitate to arrest the encroachments of Russian and Iran, he will find that America does indeed have partners on the ground willing to help shoulder the burden of stabilizing the Middle East.
President Trump deserves to be congratulated for demonstrating to the world that he will not tolerate Assad’s barbarism. The hardest work, however, is still to come: rebuilding the coalition that can stabilize the region. To do that, Trump must demonstrate to the world that he is willing to compete with Russia and Iran on a sustained basis. The size of this task will seem daunting to some, but Trump has the right team in place to do the job in the most judicious manner.