To answer this question, let’s first compare President Trump’s recent foreign policy decisions with the last eight years.
In 2008, President Obama ran a campaign ad in which he said, “I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems…I will set a goal for a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal: I will not develop nuclear weapons.”
As President, Mr. Obama followed through on that promise, initially cutting $1.5 billion in funding from continued development of the missile defense system first proposed by President Reagan in 1983.
Mr. Obama, as expressed in his campaign ad, believed the United States should lead by example in hopes that our adversaries would follow our lead and also not develop nuclear weapons.
Let’s see how that worked out.
North Korea Nuclear Tests
Four times during Mr. Obama’s presidency did North Korea test fire nuclear weapons:
May 2009 – Two Kilotons in Strength
February 2013 – Six to Seven Kilotons
January 2016 – Four to Six Kilotons
September 2016 – Ten Kilotons (Equivalent to the bombs dropped on Japan in WW II.)
Note that North Korea’s nuclear tests are becoming more frequent and stronger in power. The frequency increase may be due, in part, to Kim Jong Un’s rise to power in late 2011, but we should also take note that the 2016 tests took place after President Obama chose not to fulfill a promise to respond militarily if Bashar al-Assad crossed Mr. Obama’s stated red line with chemical weapons use in Syria.
Instead, Mr. Obama chose a diplomatic solution, promising the American people on August 18, 2014 that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile had been eliminated. Of course, this turned out not to be true as we discovered this year when Mr. Assad was again guilty of chemical weapons use on Syrian citizens.
Given the facts listed above, can we agree the United States was not made more safe by the Obama Administration?
Now let’s turn to Trump.
After the chemical attack in Syria earlier this month, Mr. Trump responded with a clear message. Within days, the United States conducted an airstrike using 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian base from which the chemical attack was launched.
Did this make us more or less safe?
While this is currently a matter of opinion and may not be fully known for some time, we can say that a message has been sent to the rest of the world: If you use chemical weapons, the United States will respond militarily. Unlike the red line talk from 2012, the world’s foreign leaders know President Trump is not bluffing.
Following the strike on Syria, President Trump ordered a naval strike group rerouted from its Australian destination to the Korean Peninsula amid heightened rhetoric from North Korea concerning its weapons program.
It’s worth noting that President Trump’s actions concerning North Korea are not exclusive to the military. The President has coordinated with China to apply pressure on North Korea. Last week, coal shipments from North Korea to China, which make up one-third of North Korean exports, were turned away and returned.
Again, do these actions make us more or less safe than we were before President Trump took office?
President Trump’s direct approach is different, for sure, and that is one thing we know: The way the last administration handled these problems, primarily through diplomatic sanctions through the U.N., did not prevent North Korea from strengthening its nuclear weapons program or Syria from continuing to stockpile chemical weapons.
Will his direct approach provoke a nuclear attack on the United States, or will it initiate a reduction in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities? That remains to be seen, but there is another name for the direct approach: Leadership.
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Promise to Cut
$1.5 Billion Cut
North Korea Nuclear Tests
Obama Statement (August 18, 2014)
North Korea Current
North Korean Coal