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How Trump's Foreign Policy Team Is Mastering Complex Challenges in Difficult Times

Author: Ray Takeyh, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies
April 18, 2017
Washington Examiner


The Trump administration came into power facing vexing foreign policy challenges ranging from a decaying global order to transnational terrorism. These problems are compounded by the fact that Americans are weary after decades of war in distant corners of the Middle East. To succeed, the administration has to balance competing imperatives: reaffirming alliances, engaging in transactional bargains with other great powers, and relentlessly pushing back on adversaries. Despite all the sound and fury, the Trump team is already demonstrating an ability to master these complex challenges in difficult times.

The Democratic Party resistance is already crying foul that the recent strike on Syria was not instantaneously followed up by a comprehensive strategy to resolve the civil war. There is something unusual about this critique from those who stood by while chemical munitions were repeatedly used under the Obama administration.

The missile attack on Syria has already accomplished one important objective, namely that chemical weapons will not be used again on the Syrian battlefields. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad now knows what his most consequential patrons, Iran and Russia, have told him that such usage could invite further American action. A line of deterrence had been established and an important international norm reclaimed. The Syrian civil war continues, and the administrations needs to craft an international alliance against Assad and work to change the balance of power on the ground, but its first step was an important lesson in the utility of limited use of force.

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