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The Heart of the Presidency

I abhor war. Any sane person does.

I also don’t support the concept of nation building or think it is the job of my country to impose its culture or form of government upon other nations. I am not a nationalist or isolationist. I’m just an American who knows she is blessed to have been born in the United States.

I am also a Jew.

So when I watch Syrian children writhing in pain and unable to breathe because a barbarian named Hafez al-Assad used nerve gas on innocents, I am vividly reminded of the abhorrent use gas played in the 20th century history of my people. It reminds of a world that stood by silently and watched. And it makes me surprisingly proud of President Trump.

Why?

Because at the very least, bullies only understand an equal and opposite force. They don’t understand diplomacy, they don’t care about public opinion, and they mock “red lines in the sand” that are all talk and no action. In fact, they call it cowardice.

Such was the case with Barack Obama and Assad. What every Arab, and every Israeli, knows is that in tribal cultures such as exist throughout the Arab world, the failure to meet force with force is perceived not only as cowardice but also as an invitation for even greater brutality. Barack Obama invited the growing chaos of the Middle East and the spread of ISIS precisely because his repeated inaction was taken as weakness and he would not, or could not, see the damage he was doing due to his own ideology and ego.

Some are saying that in raining Tomahawk missiles down on Syria Trump was finally “Presidential.” It reminds me of Michael Douglas’s line from the movie “American President” when he orders a retaliatory bombing strike against a munitions warehouse in Libya, knowing he would, in the process, kill the innocent night watchman who was just doing his job. One of Douglas’ staff remarks,”Mr. President, what you did tonight was very Presidential.” To which Douglas replies, “What I did tonight is the least Presidential thing I do.”

Killing is never something to be glorified.

What President Trump did last night had nothing to do with being presidential. It had everything to do with being human. Regardless of your politics, we are Americans and do not stand by and watch children’s lungs incinerated in real time while we stand frozen in either ineptitude or fear. We do not make political calculations or take a poll to see what the popular response should be. We aspire to elect people who, in such moments, understand what is at stake and have the personal fortitude to stand and say, “No. Not on my watch.”

I watched a Syrian man interviewed on CNN who had suffered the chemical attack by Assad’s forces and survived. He was thanking President Trump for his action last night. He said it brought hope to the Syrian people who have been pleading for 6 years for some sign of support from the United States. He begged our President not to stop. When the CNN anchor then asked him what he thought of the President’s immigration ban, he said, ‘We do not want to be immigrants. We want safe zones in Syria. We want to live in our own country without being slaughtered.” So much for the anchor’s failed attempt to invite criticism into a moment of praise.

I rest easier tonight not because my President bombed a country and flexed a muscle. I rest easier because he saw those children, as did I, and his heart hurt.  Oh yes, and because last night he said to bullies everywhere, “No. Not on my watch.”                 Carole

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