On Monday morning Trump made two simple remarks for North Korea to listen to: “Gotta behave,” he said when questioned by the media following Kim’s failed missile launch. And when asked about his next move, Trump said, “You’ll see.”
These laconic four words, this off-hand confident remark, heralded that words, words, words, diplomacy is over.
The “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” attitude of the first President Roosevelt was back. You will not see Trump going on a world tour apologising for America’s sins and promising to do better the way Obama did.
It is an overstatement to say that everything about Obama, and not just the period from Day One until he left office, was a lie. But take it as the default, or the guiding assumption, when considering the results of his Presidency, and it will leave you far closer to reality than any other.
Yes, indeed. Obama’s lies and dithering about Benghazi was just one sad example of lies meant to cover up misdeeds at the highest political levels in America. Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, John F. Kerry, Lying Lois Lerner, were all complicit in spreading his lies.
Bad enough but the title of Inaction Man fits perfectly the harm he caused with his weakness. He was the Pussy of the United States.
Why brings us to the comparison between Obama and Trump.
Obama, with a bold determined face, issued a ‘red line’ warning to the Syrian regime against the use of chemical weapons – an admonition that was promptly, willfully and repeatedly ignored. Assad’s acts of brazen and barbaric defiance resulted in… what?
Absolutely, completely, nothing … not even an “unbelievably small” military response encouraged by his lefty mates.
Obama’s failed approach to the no-win Syria conflict grew worse when then Secretary of State John Kerry gaffed and blundered his way into a fantasy policy under which Assad and his patrons in Moscow agreed to remove “all” of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles in order to stave off any potential international consequences.
This deal was hailed as a grand diplomatic accomplishment, but has consistently been exposed as a sham. Just this past weekend, Obama’s former Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the gap between the former president’s bellicose rhetoric and feckless inaction sent a “message of weakness to the world.”
Well, welcome as it is, Panetta’s remark is nothing more than what Blind Freddy has been saying at the Railway Hotel.
It turns out that the Butcher of Damascus – to the shock of only the most naive, credulous, or disingenuous – was not a man of his word. Syrian forces continued to use the weapons they’d sworn they’d given up, eliciting more scolding from Washington, but not much else. Kerry all but indicted his own policy a dismal flop.
The latest Sarin gas attack, for which Trump immediately retaliated, once again underscored the reality that Assad had very obviously not declared or handed over his full arsenal of horror weapons.
To put an even finer point on the scope of this policy crash, Sakat, a former Syrian general who defected to the West announced that Assad retained “hundreds of tons” of the deadly materials he pretended to renounce and abandon,
Sakat, who was head of chemical warfare in the Syrian army’s Fifth Division, has long told us that Assad secretly held on to much of his stash. “They admitted only to 1,300 tons, but we knew in reality they had nearly double that. They had at least 2,000 tons. At least.” Assad has not manufactured new weapons since then, but “they don’t need any more, they have all they need already.” The former commander of the UK’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regimen, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, said Sakat’s claims of Assad’s retained stockpiles were “plausible.”
Even if you’re not inclined to take the word of a former Assad commander at face value, the regime’s recent actions at least verify a key element of what Sakat has been saying for years. And The Atlantic published a lengthy piece last week chronicling the inevitable collapse of the Obama chemical weapons agreement with Assad, highlighting “Syrian deception, Russian duplicity, and American dithering“.
That agreement did go some way toward achieving its goal, it removed from Syria 1,300 metric tons of weapons-grade chemicals but this achievment was worthless if he kept enough to continue his war with them. Trump announced what he thought of the agreement by hitting Assad’s air base with Tomahawk missiles.
He did more than that. Trump pinpointed the biggest hole in the Obama agreement. That agreement had no clause for the use of force or even economic sanctions if Assad did it again. It’s now clear that, in the absence of such a threat, Syria had no incentive to comply. Assad guessed that since there was no clause for what to do in the existing agreement that Trump would not invent a clause for himself.
He guessed wrong as we now know.
Trump disrupted a lethal pattern of predictable, feeble, penalty-free affronts from Assad. It also scrambled expectations in Moscow, and now Putin and friends aren’t quite sure what to make of this American president.
On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to baffle and frustrate America’s adversaries with unpredictability.
Assad, the Russians, and the rest of the world have got a startling dose of exactly that very unpredictability over the past two weeks.
The strike Trump ordered in Syria, plus a dramatic display of force in Afghanistan, almost certainly have the tyrants in Pyongyang, Tehran and elsewhere wondering what on earth to expect from Trump.
Many Americans and allies definitely do not see it as altogether a bad thing.