Thursday night's U.S. missile attack on Syria's Shayrat military base is significant in terms of foreign policy and diplomacy.
But President Trump's follow-up actions will determine its exact value. Was the attack a random act or a part of a coherent strategy?
This attack is something President Obama should have done when Syria's murderous dictator, Bashar Assad, crossed the red line Obama had set and attacked his own people with chemical weapons.
Obama's ignoring the line emboldened the dictator.
Assad increased his brutality toward Syrians, forcing many of them to flee their homes, triggering a major refugee crisis. The situation destabilized the region, financially and politically stressed Europe, possibly contributed to Brexit, weakened the European Union and made Russia claim leadership of the Syria riddle.
Until then, Russia had stayed away. It did not want to wade into what everybody knew was a domain of America's leadership.
Obama's cowardice also did something else: It made him look ineffective and indecisive.
So when Hillary Clinton hitched her presidential campaign to the Obama legacy, she inherited his inertia-ridden image.
I am not saying that Obama should have attacked Assad because it would have helped Democrats politically. That's not how America conducts its foreign policy.
But I am saying that Clinton showed a severe lack of judgment by ignoring Obama's lackadaisical attitude toward dictators, which she had herself criticized soon after leaving the Secretary of State's Office. Therefore, I don't know if she would have shown the same decisiveness that Trump showed toward Assad's Tuesday chemical attack on civilians.
Good for the Syrian people that she is not president.
I am sure that Trump will be criticized by Democrats, some of whom have not yet accepted the outcome of the 2016 election and illogically question his legitimacy as president. They will say he attacked Syria to divert people's attention from his party's nuking of the Senate's filibuster rule to send Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court or to look tough on Russia at a time when investigations of his and his associates' possible culpability in their links with Russia were under way.
I point these critics to what the then-secretary of defense, William Cohen, said after President Clinton's 1998 futile missile attacks on Afghanistan to kill Osama bin Laden in wake of al-Qaeda's attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Clinton was in the midst of independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation of the Monica Lewinsky episode. Critics said that Clinton was trying to divert people's attention from the Lewinsky issue.
Cohen, a Republican, retorted that it was preposterous to think that a president could abuse the U.S. military in such a political way.
I cannot admire Trump's Thursday night attack enough. It shows that America is in charge of freedom and human rights again.
His ending his statement on the attack with "God bless America and the entire world" is unique and praiseworthy.
Giving Russians advance notice of the attack also is to Trump's credit. As the Pentagon said, Russians almost certainly tipped Assad, giving him time to secure some of his assets.
But not informing Russians would have been a violation of the terms of the hotline that exists between American and Russian air forces in the region. The situation would have become complicated if some of the 59 Tomahawk missiles that U.S. naval destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean fired at Shayrat had hit a Russian asset.
When in the wee hours of April 15, 1986, President Ronald Reagan bombed Libyan military targets around Benghazi and Tripoli — I was in Benghazi that night — in response to Moammar Gadhafi's attack on a West Berlin disco that American soldiers frequented, the U.S. gave the then-Soviet Union advance notice. Libya was in the Soviet camp back then and was littered with the Soviet-supplied surface-to-air missile batteries.
But advance notice will not stop Russians from trying to exact political and diplomatic mileage from the Shayrat attack. Already, Russian officials have disabled the hotline.