Dear Mr. and Mrs. Trump,
Thank you for enrolling your son in our program, and we are pleased to present our first quarter foreign policy assessment to you now. Over all, we are pleased with your Donald’s progress although, as you will see, there are some areas of significant concern. We will start with the bad news.
Constitutional Law (F)
We have been over this a number of times. Congress is the only entity that can declare war (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11). The president is the Commander in Chief once war is declared, but does not have the authority to start the whole shebang all by himself. Calling it something else doesn’t make it something else. Japan did not have the authority to call Pearl Harbor a limited strike, although it was, or to point out that they had put no “boots on the ground,” although that was also true.
China, Russia, the entire Middle East, and North Korea all have this in common—they don’t care about the niceties of the U.S. Constitution. All they care about is what is likely to happen to them and their causes if they do x,y, or z, and how quickly it might happen to them and their causes. After eight years of very predictable dithering for Obama-months, pronouncing things unacceptable as a prelude to accepting them, accompanied by hand-wringing in the State Department, all international plug-uglies now have to calculate in terms of a decisive response within hours. As an exercise in military theater, this was magnificent.
Maintaining the Base (C+)
The diehard supporters of the president did not vote for him so that he could land us in another hip-deep military quagmire in the Middle East. Indeed, many of them voted for him precisely because he wouldn’t do that. Many of them are disappointed and/or outraged. But this grade can be brought up if he shows over time that nation building is not going to be any part of this. If he uses the military simply to whack people from time to time, and not as the advance team for the construction of a Middle East sinkhole for trillions of dollars, his base will become decreasingly surly about this.
Destabilizing the Neo Cons (A)
The respectable Republican establishment is now torn between their deep distaste for this president, and the giddy excitement of having a president who will let someone like Assad have it. If this keeps up, they will be unable to generate sufficient levels of outrage over his latest 4 am Tweet if they have to keep going out in front of cameras to praise his decisive leadership as displayed in his 5 am Tweet.
Destabilizing the Left (A)
The left has put virtually all of its story board resources into establishing the narrative that the president is a Putin puppet. But Putin puppets don’t bring us to the brink of war with Russia by sending in a flock of Tomahawk missiles to rain down upon another Putin puppet. Putin puppets would show a bit more solidarity than that. This strike did not put this Syrian airfield out of commission for more than a day or so. But it does put certain other things out of commission, and perhaps for good.
As the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch shows, along with the triggering of the nuclear option, we may be on the road to removing this next inconsistency. But if air strikes are justified on Syria because of chemical attacks on infants, doesn’t this mean that air strikes on us would be justified because of our chemical attacks on unborn children? The grade here will rest almost entirely on the next Supreme Court nomination, which may come within a matter of months.