Baranowski: The World Policeman Comes Back?
The US attack on the Syrian military base at Al-Shayrat was the most important decision of Donald Trump's young Presidency. So far, from Washington, we've seen a lot of rhetoric, a lot of tweets, but no real foreign policy. The new policy direction is now likely to emerge as the consequence of Thursday's decision. Although there are still many potential scenarios for Donald Trump's foreign policy, after Friday's attack we already know that it can no longer be an isolationist policy. Will it be a return to the traditionally republican policy of engagement, with readiness to sustain a liberal world order on his shoulders?
Bashar Assad, committing a hideous crime by attacking innocent civilians with chemical weapons, gave the international community, but above all the new president of the United States, a dilemma - the lack of a proper response would confirm the thesis of those who spoke of the end of US leadership in world affairs.
Donald Trump during the presidential campaign favored a benign course against the Syrian president. Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the future of Asad would be decided by the Syrian people, not the world powers, to make it clear that the United States did not intend to intervene in Syria. This latest missile strike is not only a shift of Trump's administration toward the Syrian regime but could be a beginning of an adjustment of the overall foreign policy vision.
The attack, in which Trump chose one of the least drastic options presented to him by the Pentagon, was calibrated to send a signal to Asad that reuse of chemical weapons would not be tolerated. On the other hand, the limited nature of the bombing also showed that this was not the beginning of a wider invasion of the Damascus government and an attempt to change the regime. Bombing was to show how Tillerson said that President Trump can make a "firm decision" when others "cross the line and fail to keep their commitments" - a very clear signal to the leaders of North Korea and Iran.
On the other hand, military operations, are hard to control and the enemy - in this case both Asad and Russia - gets a vote. At this point there is no long-term strategy in D.C. for a war that has been going on for more than five years. Trump, however, set his prestige on the scale and in case of an escalation of the conflict by Asada or Russia will not be easy to withdraw without a major loss of face.
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