Putting ‘America First’ in the Mideast
America’s surgical strike on Syrian regime targets a week and a half ago — and this past Thursday’s “mother of all non-nuclear bomb” attack on Sunni terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan — garnered surprisingly widespread bipartisan support, but put some of US President Donald Trump’s critics in a bit of a rhetorical quandary. How could they word their defense of Trump’s bold yet not extreme warning shots without putting a dent in their distrust of the new occupant of the Oval Office?
Coming up with a solution to this problem turned out not to be so difficult for those pundits and politicians who have been paying close attention both to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of his own people — most recently with chemical weapons — and to every syllable of Trump’s Twitter feed.
Their argument now goes that Trump’s latest military moves — and shift in attitude toward NATO — are examples of policy “flip-flopping” from the “isolationism” expressed in his inaugural address to a newfound global interventionism. They contend that a president who so drastically and swiftly shifts gears is perfectly capable of performing yet another about-face when the mood arises.
The trouble is that this assertion is both overly simplistic and inaccurate.
In the first place, Trump himself openly acknowledged that though he had said he was not going to intervene in Syria, he “changed his mind” when it was established that Assad was killing babies with sarin gas — after lying about having rid his country of chemical weapons. He has also openly declared war on the Islamic State group. This hardly constitutes a flip-flop. Instead, it indicates flexibility of thought and action on the part of a leader faced with a set of circumstances that warrants both.
The same goes for his statements on NATO, which he originally called “obsolete” and has since deemed necessary. His initial attack on the organization was that its members were not pulling their weight. This spurred them to make at least symbolic gestures, such as slightly increasing their budgets, to persuade him to reconsider. This is no small thing.
Secondly, Trump’s inaugural speech was not, in fact, an ode to isolationism; it was a reassertion of American greatness and power both domestically and on the world stage. Take the following excerpt, for example:
“For many decades, we’ve … subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own. … From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on … America will start winning again, winning like never before.”
And this: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth. …
“It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.”
The speech concludes: “So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together, we will make America strong again. We will make wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, together, we will make America great again.”
Those who consider the Trump doctrine spelled out above as contradictory to the president’s performance in office so far seem to have lost something in translation.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.