Foreign Policy

The Great Contrast: Trump and Syria

Like the other men and women of my generation that served in the Armed Forces, I served an America engaged in nearly constant conflict. In October of 2001, I was on the ship that fired the first missile in the our now nearly 17-year old war in Afghanistan. 

“On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”

President Bush let the rest of the world know what I already knew.

In 2004, I was deployed to living in and working with the people of a Muslim community in East Africa when the pictures of torture and dehumanization from the American run prison in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, were made public.

That one was hard to explain to the people I was working with towards the shared goal of providing security for the region.

Bush again:

“Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.”

In the summer of 2009, I was on my way to Iraq, for the last time, when President Obama announced the end of the war.

“So, tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

That was the signal that my job was to help end the war.

For the 14 years I served on active duty, I had a keen interest in the words the Commanders in Chief that I served under said. I understood their weight and how they would impact what I was asking my teams to do.

They mattered.

I’ve been a vocal critic of President Trump since he announced his candidacy. I’ve written at length on my reasons for opposition. They’re not political. Perhaps yesterday gave the clearest example of why, as a vet and someone who deeply loves his country and the men and women that serve her.

Last night, the United States, The United Kingdom and France conducted joint air strikes in Syria on select locations believed to be a part of the Assad regime’s ability to conduct chemical attacks on their own people.

There is credible evidence that the Assad regime violated international law, for at least the third time, by conducting chemical attacks against its own population. The nature of the response by the United States is consistent with long standing foreign policy and was likely conducted effectively with appropriate precision. If there’s one thing I have faith in, the American military can project power with precision and effect.

I have no credible criticism of the American response, considering my place in the order of American war for the last twenty years.

Yesterday morning, during the same news cycle as the reports of the American response that effectively signals the beginning or continuation of a proxy war with Russia, the Commander in Chief tweeted the following from his personal Twitter account:

“DOJ just issued the McCabe report – which is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey – McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”

“….untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Last night, at the same time American service members were en route to or already conducting violence against other humans, at grave risk to their own personal safety, the president said the following:

“My fellow Americans, a short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both.”

The ideological distance between the two perspectives exposed by the duality of the Trump persona is the subject of my most focused criticism of President Trump. It’s not nitpicking because I can’t disagree with his actions against Syria and therefore need to find something else to criticize.

It is and has been my most dire criticism.

This isn’t the Cuban Missile Crisis. But it’s higher tensions then we’ve had with Russia since the end of the Cold War. And we’ve got someone at the controls who can’t resist his base urges to lash out against foes publicly.

A disciplined and intelligent response to the investigation into the Trump campaign would be to keep quiet, let it runs its course and once over, when nothing came of it because it truly as a witch hunt, those that participated would be embarrassed and politically discredited.

But that takes discipline and self-control. Just like a proxy war with Russia in Syria.

It’s worth noting that half way through the second year of the Trump administration, the State Department, our primary vehicle to resolve international conflict without violence, has no confirmed leader or direction

The world is watching.

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