- White Helmets/Reuters
- Sometimes America must act as the world’s policeman.
- To really put America first, President Donald Trump must abandon isolationism.
- It’s the only way to ensure his “America First” agenda is enacted.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia was not technically wrong when he said, regarding intervention in Syria, that no one appointed the US or the West as “policemen of the world.”
But given the sad reality that the United Nations is a tired, feckless organization whose power has long been curtailed by both bureaucracy and the often-competing interests of its members, the US sometimes should act as the world’s policeman, appointed or not. When the international body that is ostensibly responsible abrogates its duty, it is morally incumbent on other powers to step up.
Now is one of those times. But if President Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of isolationism, is not sufficiently persuaded by the basic human (and American) concept of helping those who are in the most dire of straits, there are other factors his administration should be considering when deciding how to act in Syria today and going forward.
The “America First” principle to which Trump turned so often during the campaign promises to put the interests of America and Americans before all else. This cannot be achieved through isolationism, and the violence in Syria is only the most recent example of why that is the case.
Commentary’s Noah Rothman explained it best:
“American soldiers are deployed all over the world, often in nations with weak governments engaged in civil hostilities. Any number of illegitimate regimes would like to deploy with plausible deniability these cheap and relatively ubiquitous weapons of mass destruction. The erosion of the prohibitions around chemical warfare will mean that more Americans are exposed to these agents.”
When President Barack Obama drew – and failed to enforce – his “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons, he damaged America’s credibility in the international arena. An America that is either afraid or unwilling to act is a weakened America – a publicly weakened America – and to truly put America first, one of Trump’s core agenda items should be restoring the image of a powerful nation.
In an interview with The Associated Press during the presidential campaign, Assad said that American officials “say something in the morning and they do the opposite in the evening.” Therefore, “you cannot judge those people according t0 what they say. … You cannot take them at their words.”
Though Trump insisted during the campaign that he didn’t want “to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is,” his tweet warning Russia to “get ready” demonstrated an inclination toward doing exactly that. And yet, if he doesn’t follow through, he will only strengthen the dangerous perception that threats made by the administration do not need to be taken seriously.
The reasons for meaningful intervention are at least two-fold.
On a human level, there is severe and ongoing suffering that we are in a position to, at the very least, begin to combat. On a strategic level, the decision not to act, or to act only minimally, in a way that is punitive but not harsh enough to dissuade the regime from future repeat actions, will only serve to further weaken and endanger America and American citizens in the long term.