In 1986, Libyan connections to a bombing of a Berlin nightclub that killed several American service members, prompted President Reagan to go after Libyan dictator Gaddafi. Gaddafi barely made it out of his tent alive. In a similar fashion, President Trump put Baschar al-Assad on notice for gassing civilians; including children. He did it swiftly and effectively; targeting military sites that allegedly launched the gas attack. President Trump seems to be taking pages out of Reagan’s playbook in dealing with dictatorial bullies who hold the world hostage to evil. Bring strength to the table and then negotiate.
The past idealistic often disillusioned socialist and leftist narrative of dialogue and diplomacy gave a “hallway” pass to petty dictators and their whims. The United States(US) is well aware that it can obliterate any nation the size of Iran or Syria simply by pounding it to the ground with Tomahawk missiles launched from a small ship miles away across the Mediterranean. But prudently, power is restrained giving bullies a chance to reform. In the case of Baschar, reforming does not seem to be in his vocabulary. In 2013 President Obama drew the proverbial “red line” that should have put Baschar on notice. Unfortunately that “red line” dissolved in a sea of inane diplomatic rhetoric and indignation from a useless and irrelevant United Nations (UN). Just like the bully who steals school lunches in the playground and eventually grows up to become the neighborhood thug; Baschar was allowed to continue an autocratic life without hindrance, while seeking a profitable alliance with Russia; with Putin taking on the role of Big Brother. Russia did not shake hands with Baschar just to exchange Vodka and Hummus. Russia saw it as a foothold in the region with close proximity to the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and Africa. Establishing a military presence in the Middle East gives Russia a direct path from Moscow south into the African continent. Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean will also affect regional shipping and trade ala South China Sea and the provocative Chinese presence. Russia gently crept into the blue waters while the European Union (EU) and the UN were babbling incessantly about human rights, immigration, and Brexit. For eight years we were subjected to western indignation and finger wagging at Baschar without any serious consequences. The man could care less. Now I think he does!
It is noticeably interesting that Iran and North Korea have remained relatively quiet in the aftermath of US retaliation. Wonder why? Those who have been decrying the Trump presidency as an ‘ism” of a genre or other have missed one serious fact; his presumed instability is also his biggest strength. No one has a clue what he would do next. Good business men never show their hand when negotiating deals. They deal strong leaving room for negotiating. Mr. Trump has shown his strong “hand” which has left nutcases like Kim Jong-Un and the Ayatollahs suspended in uncertainty. Will he or won’t he come after us? What is he going to do next? Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Trump does not announce to the world what he would do next, and he cares very little about world or public opinion. In the words of Rhett Butler: “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”. The days of irrelevant intellectual oratory rhetoric are gone and not replaced by one seeking popular votes among intellectual snowflakes, but one who like Reagan, wants to reestablish the United States as the leader of the free world. Reagan reestablished a strong American image after a quasi failed limpid Jimmy Carter presidency that left 52 US Embassy employees in Iran hostage for over a year. Carter’s weak diplomacy empowered Iran to become a threat in the region. Iran has continued to grow into a terrorist state that openly detests Israel and unashamedly declares its obliteration with zeal. This empowerment was further embellished by President Obama’s nuke deal which has left Israel vulnerable and subject to nuclear attacks from Iran. What is President Trump’s answer to Iran? Not sure; but their silence after the Syrian bombing might have given them food for thought.
The Middle East, the Gulf region, North Korea, and South China Sea; have been left to fester without accountability and restrain. China is the main trading partner to North Korea and has unabashedly remained defiant in the South China sea; building military “islands” and provoking confrontation with neighboring countries in neutral waters. Russia took Crimea and invaded Ukraine with little more than “indignation” from the rest of the EU, NATO, and UN pinheads. Putin finds any excuse to “help” which accounts for the strong Russian presence in the Middle East. All this happened without any major challenge from the US, EU, NATO, and UN. Mr. Trump’s quick response to Syria’s gas attacks has turned the tide toward more severe admonition from America. Mr. Trump has also put world leaders and organizations on notice that with or without their cooperation, the US will go ahead and “punish” those who cross HIS “red line”. Critics and anti-Trumpers who attempted to recall campaign statements in an effort to decry the attack were also deflated. Mr. Trump’s reasoning was on point: opinions and promises take a back seat when children are killed indiscriminately. That was the humane response not the political response. Even the zealots on the left could not find a fault with that.
In June 1987, at the Berlin Wall, President Reagan publicly challenged Gorbachev and the Soviet Union: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Eight months prior, in Reykjavik, President Reagan had walked out of a nuclear summit with Gorbachev because he refused to compromise his country’s safety in lieu of diplomacy. The challenge at the Wall was premeditated. He was telling his Russian counterpart that if the Soviet Union was serious about reducing nuclear proliferation and improving world safety; Gorbachev needs to start in his own back yard. That was the turning point in US-Soviet relations which two years later knocked down the Berlin Wall literally. President Trump “walked out” of diplomacy when he realized that Baschar had little regard for human life and had to be challenged publicly and quickly. Tomahawk missiles sent a message to world leaders and pinhead organizations that first and foremost the US will not sit back and allow atrocities to happen, and secondly, it does not need anyone’s approval to do the right thing. His actions should also be comforting to Israel. For the first time in many years, Israel knows that the US will have its back. Surrounding Arab countries have also been given a preview of what could happen if one of them steps out of line.
President Reagan’s 1987 Berlin speech remains one of the most significant speeches in history. It invoked his passion for freedom through strength. Just like President Trump, President Reagan was faced with world admonition and protests because of his hard-line approach toward the Soviet Union. But at the Berlin Wall, he specifically targeted the protestors and those who failed to realize that deterrence through strength brings peace: “And I invite those who protested then– I invite those who protest today–to mark this fact: Because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table. And because we remained strong, today we have within reach the possibility, not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.” (The History Place. Great Speeches Collection). Is President Trump the next Ronald Reagan? Can he turn the tide around? Can he deter through strength but also leave room for negotiation? He has already reached out to Jordan, Egypt, and China. The former two countries seem to have responded favorably to President Trump and the retaliatory decision against Syria. Jordan and Egypt have reasonable relations with Israel and would like to keep the Syrian “problem” away from their borders. But President Trump must now focus on bringing China and Russia to the negotiating table, and also hold them responsible for their “protégés”; Kim Jong-Un and Baschar. China and Russia must rein in these two nutcases. If the UN was serious about human rights, it would leave Israel alone and concentrate on China and Russia; both of which support and assist North Korea and Syria. China sustains North Korea through trade and exports, while Russia supports Syria militarily. The UN can slap sanctions against both for assisting and abetting murderers.
President Reagan believed that the United States stands on the right side of moral causes. He also believed that unless America retained its strength it could not assist other nations when in distress. That line of reasoning was justified when the Caliphate spread unprovoked across the Gulf region, Middle East, and Africa. America’s dilution allowed this evil to flourish. Terrorists rarely negotiate. President Obama’s idealistic dream of peaceful negotiations went nowhere and forged the way for terrorists groups to regroup and coordinate terrorism across the globe. Terrorist groups have sophisticated global financial networks that allow them to operate unhindered . To think that terrorists are interested in détente is insane if not downright stupid. Culturally and historically, these groups have little respect for weakness. Trump has brought back Reagan ‘s simple ideology that good should prevail over evil. Last week’s response to blatant evil put the US on high moral ground. Will President Trump follow through? That remains to be seen. But the “giant” has finally woken up and there is no turning back. Ronald Reagan would probably be pleased. Unknowingly, Donald Trump won “one for the gipper”.