President Donald Trump told the nation Friday evening that he had ordered “precision” military strikes against targets in Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad’s reported use of chemical weapons against civilians in the city of Douma last weekend. In addition to the military response, the president also sent a clear diplomatic message.
First, he indicated that the U.S. was launching the attacks in coordination with Britain and France. That marks a difference from last year’s response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, when the U.S. acted alone in launching Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian air base from which the chemical weapons attack had been staged. The message is clear: President Trump has the support of the free world in punishing the Assad regime.
Second, Trump addressed Russia and Iran directly and challenged their support for the Assad regime. In doing so, he not only put those countries on notice that their actions were bringing them into conflict with the U.S., but he also strengthened the moral basis for the military strikes against Syria. He also undermined the basis for Russian and Iranian support for Assad — whom they argue is a legitimate government defending itself against terrorism. For a century, Trump said, civilized nations have agreed that no legitimate government would use chemical weapons.
As for skeptics of further U.S. involvement in Syria, the president reiterated Friday evening what he had been saying for days, even before the chemical weapons attack — namely, that he wanted to bring U.S. troops home and to hand responsibility for stability in the region to local leaders. In his address to the nation, Trump was more specific, outlining his expectation that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others would step forward.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.