The Defining Moment

By Joe Ragonese

The infamous red line in the sand that Obama drew, and when it was crossed, he did nothing, defined his Presidency. Likewise, President Trump’s actions, in the same place, Syria, will define his. All the noise being created by the radical left, and its partners in the mainstream media, about Trump’s Russian connection, may have drowned out the importance of Trump’s attack against Syria, but be assured that history will identify this strike as Trump’s defining moment.

Not being a politician, Trump boxed himself into a corner when he responded to a reporter’s question asking if Assad, by using chemical weapons against his own citizens, had crossed Trump’s red line. In the heat of the moment, he responded, as any reasonable man would, that, “he has crossed many, many lines.” That statement is as binding on him, as was Obama’s when he threatened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against using chemical weapons on his people, again.

The situation in Syria is much different now than it was when Obama made his threat. At that time an attack, possibly using stand-off weapons, like Tomahawk missiles, would have demonstrated enough resolve that the use of further force might not have been necessary. But, doing nothing was destructive; and then allowing Russia to intervene on al-Assad’s behalf, introduced two new dynamics into the conflict, the entire Middle East, and the world.

The first dynamic caused by Obama’s weakness, was the Russian entry into the conflict; and the second was that it created a void in the region. The world was watching and reacted accordingly. China’s island building in the South China Sea, Russia’s attack against Ukraine and intimidation in Europe and former Soviet states, Iran’s nuclear program and attacks against U.S. Naval ships, North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile program; those were all the direct results of Obama’s irresolution in Syria.

The Russian entry into Syria, bartering on behalf of al-Assad, led directly to Russian troops fighting in that country, firmly on the side of both Syria and their Middle East partner, Iran. Russia has long standing ties to both countries, and its entry complicated the already complicated situation in the most volatile area of the world. It became much more volatile with Russia’s entry. Today, because of Russian involvement, Iranian troops stand-off against Israeli troops in the Golan Heights, while Russian aircraft enter Turkish airspace capriciously. There is a war for Syria being fought in that country, as well as one for control of the entire Middle East, simultaneously. Russia’s entry makes it more explosive and unpredictable.

The void left behind by Obama’s weakness, was filled by the most radical Islamic organization of the time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; ISIS. Its creation was the direct result of the vacuum precipitated by America’s absence in the region. Our weakness emboldened the leaders of ISIS to challenge the world. They were going to create the Islamic Caliphate prophesized in the Qur’an.

The present situation in Syria is complex and there are no easy fixes. None of President Trump’s options are really very good, although some are better than others. By sending 60 Tomahawk missiles to destroy the airfield where the gas attack was launched against innocent civilians, President Trump sent a very strong message that America is again the world’s leader; no more leading from behind.

Future actions, if there are any follow-ups, and at the time this is being written there is not any information, must be dictated by decisions with far reaching implications. The first step is to establish goals. What does the President intend to accomplish with any future actions? He has stated an intention to destroy ISIS, what future actions would he take to accomplish that goal. How does he define victory in Syria?

He could simply do nothing more; after all, he has made a significant point to al-Assad, the Russians, ISIS, our allies in the Middle East and our enemies. This single action; however, will not change much in the region. If the President were to follow up with further strikes, it would demonstrate a determination, and will, to re-establish support to those who have been our allies in that area, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordon and Israel; the nations Obama abandoned. It will also send a message to nations outside the Middle East, like North Korea and China.

Depending on President Trump’s objectives, he could do anything from sending in stealth bombers or Tomahawk missiles, to destroying Syria’s command and control; all the way to sending in the 82nd Airborne to take out al-Assad. Whatever his objectives are, once the action or actions are taken, he needs to fully inform the American people why he is taking those steps. America will coalesce around any military action, as long as the goals and need are explained.

Even Democrats will fall in line when the shooting starts, but that support will be tepid at best, and fall away as quickly as it can, and then turn into an attack on the President. Going to war will win him no friends at home, but very well might with our allies in both the Middle East and Europe. There is even an opening to gain Russia’s help in ridding Syria of ISIS; to avenge their attack against St. Petersburg, Russia. There is little likelihood of this, especially given all of the vitriol spewed by Democrats against them lately; but there is still that small window of opportunity.

Simply talking to Russia, which it has been reported has already occurred prior to yesterday’s air strikes at Shayrat Air Base, is a good starting point. In a statement given to the press, President Trump said, “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking an end to the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.” That was directed at Russia.

As an added benefit of re-engaging in world events, by showing strength in Syria, even North Korea will take notice. So when President Trump says that we may act independently against them, they understand that it is a real threat and not hollow Obama words.

Decisive action in Syria can have positive results; or lead to the most disastrous of consequences. How it all turns out can not be predicted, because war is never predictable. What happens next will define Trump’s Presidency, for the good or bad. Whatever happens next is his defining moment in history.