Rutecki: Trump’s foreign policy successfully departs from Obama’s

The United States possesses the world’s most powerful military, and President Donald Trump has shown his willingness to use it when his administration deems it necessary. On April 6, Trump announced that he ordered a targeted military strike on an air base in Syria, from which a chemical attack was launched. Around 8:40 p.m., 59 Tomahawk missiles struck the target. This airfield, Al Shayrat, was the site where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad conducted a horrific chemical attack on his own people the same week.

President Trump showed that the war crimes of the Assad regime will not be tolerated. Trump’s approach to Syria differs from that of President Barack Obama. Obama sought a diplomatic solution with President Assad, but these negotiations largely failed. In 2012, Obama issued a “red line” with the Assad regime that was to be crossed if Assad used chemical weapons. Obama sought Congressional support before he could take military action in Syria, which ultimately resulted in indecision. While presidents do need to have Congress’ approval to declare war, Trump’s strike did not create a new war. The United States Congress has not formally declared war since World War II, although U.S. forces have been active in many countries since then.  Trump’s action was legal under the War Powers Resolution, which required the President to consult Congress before sending U.S. forces into combat, as Trump did.  When Assad’s forces killed nearly 1,500 people in a chemical attack, Obama did not enforce his red line with military force. Obama failed to come up with the legal rationale Trump used to justify military force.  

Instead, Obama made a deal with Russia that involved Assad agreeing to destroy his chemical weapons arsenal. Obama’s foreign policy strategy for Syria was well-intentioned, but it did not produce a solution that deterred Assad from using chemical weapons after all. Trump’s next foreign policy decision was equally bold. On April 14, the U.S. military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in their arsenal on ISIS targets in Afghanistan. The 21,600-pound bomb, nicknamed “the mother of all bombs” killed 94 ISIS fighters with no reports of civilian casualties. This attack against ISIS is consistent with Trump’s pledges during his presidential campaign. Army General John W. Nicholson supported the bombing, writing, “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive…”

However, many of the international conflicts facing our nation during Obama’s two terms still exist today.  In January of 2014, Obama called ISIS the “JV team”, comparing its status to a mediocre high school sports team. Now, ISIS controls thousands of square miles in Iraq and Syria, and is responsible for thousands of deaths in the Middle East, as well as dozens of terrorist plots in Western nations. When the world descended into more chaos, Obama stood aloof.       

These two American military actions remind me how frightening the world is. The evil that occurs internationally and in our own communities is truly heartbreaking. There is no guarantee that North Korea will not decide to launch a nuclear missile at another country tomorrow.  Because of this reality, I think it is important for us to remember how lucky we are to be Americans, compared to citizens of other countries.