President Donald Trump ordered his first full-fledged military strike Thursday night against Syria in retaliation for that country’s alleged use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians.
It was an act so vile it forced Trump — a man who said he did not want to be the world’s president — to act swiftly against a foreign government’s military air field. President Trump called it “a targeted strike from where the weapon was launched.”
Trump said hours before the strike the inhumanity of the scenes of “beautiful babies,” women and men fighting for breath had touched him. So he did what his predecessor had threaten to do if Syria crossed “the red line,’’ but didn’t.
Praising a military strike that will likely lead to casualties and a confrontation with Russia, is difficult, but Trump sent a necessary message, one to which he needs to remain true.
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What comes next for the U.S. is critical, and Trump should keep his resolve to defend the defenseless.
Using chemical weapons on civilians, by any country, cannot be shrugged off or declared someone else’s problem.
The president denounced the chemical use as late as Thursday afternoon on Air Force One while on his way to Palm Beach to greet the Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago where the men will huddle for two days of meetings.
For starters, Trump played it differently than former President Obama who in 2012 warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons — then failed to take action when he did.
Trump amped up Obama’s rhetoric, saying that this week's attacks “crossed a lot of lines for me.” It was, he said, “beyond a red line.”
And, he made these remarks shortly after all but throwing an ultimatum at North Korea to stop its missile and nuclear programs, and putting Iran “on notice“ for its missile tests.
Suddenly, the U.S. is trying to keep world order.
Russia, North Korea, Iran and China will now have to react. This U.S. military action risks a clash with Russian forces in Syria, and pose a threat to U.S. troops fighting there against Islamic State.
Trump said that he will never telegraph his military plans to America’s enemies — and he didn’t. That shouldn’t stop him from making public as much U.S. evidence as possible about Syria’s responsibility for the chemical attack.
Thursday night, Trump asked for the support of other nations.
France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. have put forward a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning the chemical attack. That’s a worthy, if doomed mission: Russia and China vetoed the last such attempt to hold Assad accountable.
These two nations need every public reminder possible of their unconscionable support for a war criminal who thinks nothing of torturing and killing his people — a message that Trump should reinforce with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Parts of this editorial first appeared in Bloomberg View.