To the editor:
Mr. Trump’s first reaction to Bashar al-Assad’s latest atrocity against his own people was to blame Barack Obama’s inaction, ignoring his own administration’s pronouncements of nonintervention in Syria just days earlier.
It is instructive to examine that infamous “red line” of August 2013. To say that Obama “did nothing” after Assad crossed the line ignores the fact that he began to position military aircraft to strike, ostensibly at Assad’s chemical weapons, and asked Congress to authorize use of force against Syria (which request Congress ignored). Russia intervened to persuade Assad to surrender his stockpiles, reported as complete by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in June 2014 (a tragic error, it now appears). The sweep was, in any case, much more complete than could have been accomplished by air attacks, no chemical weapons exploded into the atmosphere, no lives were lost, and no nerve-gas attacks occurred for three and a half years. That was successful Realpolitik.
Mr. Trump has shown how he thinks Mr. Obama should have handled the situation (a complete reversal from his statements in 2013). Time will inform us which approach was more effective.