Friday, April 7, 2017


Of Trump’s actions this past week--I pinpoint three to approve. I've been waiting to find an action of Trump to approve. Now I have three.

First, Trump chose to demolish a Syrian air base with missiles. 

Why is this military attack not an evil from a religious ethics point of view?

You'd want to understand and to agree with Reinhold Niebuhr, the primary Christian realist ethicist of the past century. He stated, briefly, that injustice must be resisted with force if necessary. Love, a Christian virtue, is to be balanced with justifiable force if necessary.

Bashar al-Assad 
Attribution:Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr 
Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil via Wikimedia Commons

Niebuhr might judge that Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, acted sinfully against his own citizens by indiscriminately killing men, women and children with gas. Trump’s authorizing an attack on the airbase from which the attack was launched—that was appropriate. Trump acted justly.

But now, are you ready for this? Niebuhr would advise us to watch the follow-up in future days and weeks. Will DT find a way to limit Assad’s freedom of action? The question goes still further: will Trump build stability in the Middle East? 

What if Pres. Trump is building toward overthrowing Assad via all-out war? This, as a reader of the column pointed out, is a possibility. Trump recently sent his trusted senior adviser, Jared Kushner on a little-noticed mission with a U.S. general to Iraq on April 3, reportedly (Graffio Tech) to discuss the fight against ISIS. What if a campaign to overthrow Assad was a part of the conversation? What if Trump is planning to put American troops on the ground to overthrow Assad? His goals might include polish his own image as Commander in Chief and to beef up his plunging approval ratings.

Trump should review Operation Freedom (2003).  President George W. Bush, purposed to rid Iraq of a dictator. He succeeded in that limited goal. But the Operation led to unintended consequences--it destabilized the area, prepared the way for ISIS to control vast swaths of land, and hurt Bush's presidency. This historical episode should slow down Trump's trigger finger.

A second reason to cheer: Trump removed Steve Bannon from the Security Council. Sorry, but Bannon has no credentials in national security. Trump made a huge presidential mistake to place Bannon on that Council in the first place. Now that Trump made Bannon’s tenure on the Security Council very short, thank you, Mr. Trump. You’ve pulled back from the initial bad move.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Feb. 17, 2017
Attribution: Ryan Johnson

Third—another good move. Trump promoted his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to greater authority within the White House. Kushner, senior adviser to Trump, was almost an unknown before the election. Based on actions so far, as well as on his background, he seems balanced, pragmatic, and prepared to exercise good judgment. Like Bannon, he has a business and journalism background. 
Unlike Bannon, he doesn’t owe anything to a nationalist following. Further, as a practicing modern orthodox Jew, Kushner has an anchor in religious ethics.

These three approvals don't mean that I give Trump free sailing from here. Hardly. I'm an American, so he's my president, but I'm very much into RESIST.

But I give credit where credit is due. At last, some credit is due. These three moves of the past week—Assad, Bannon, Kushner—may—should seem good and even welcome to those who share a religious ethical viewpoint.

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