It was a moment that brought Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous maxim to life.
During a raucous meeting with reporters at the White House on Wednesday, where he was questioned repeatedly about his alleged weakness on Russia, President Donald Trump dropped a subtle reminder that when it comes to dealing with foreign rivals, the United States still carries a big, deadly stick.
And with Trump in the White House, the American military knows it’s free to use it.
“We’re doing very well,” Trump said. “Probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia. And there’s been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia…
“Look at, unfortunately, what happened in Syria recently. And I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, certainly a lot better than the media.”
Trump was referring to the February clash where a shadowy Russian mercenary force and Syrian allies attacked units of American Marines and Green Berets.
The attack in Syria’s Deir al-Zour Province included more than 500 fighters backed up by vehicles including armored personnel carriers and Russian tanks, according to a New York Times account of the fight. When it was over, an estimated 200 to 300 of the attackers were dead. It was unclear how many of those were Russians or Syrians, but a Bloomberg report indicated that more 100 of the dead were Russians.
Not one of the badly outnumbered Americans was harmed.
(It’s worth pointing out that at the time, The Times hyped the battle as evidence that “heightened tensions” between Russia and the United States could “could plunge both countries into bloody conflict.” That was before “Trump is soft on Russia” became the party line, though.)
To this day, it’s unclear who was really behind the attack. Russia’s government denied involvement, though most reports pin it on a Russian mercenary outfit with deep government ties.
The Wagner PMC (Private Military Company), according to the BBC, is headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, whom the BBC described as “a rich businessman close to President Vladimir Putin.”
That an outfit like that saw fit to attack American special forces is a testament to how much eight years of former President Barack Obama’s feckless leadership had lowered the standing of the American military in the eyes of some of the most dangerous people in the world.
That the United States military responded as it did, with overwhelming air power that backed up courageous fighting on the ground, is a testament to the American troops involved, as well as Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
And while much of the assembled media might have missed Trump’s reference mon Wednesday – it doesn’t fit the current media narrative of Trump’s alleged weakness — the reminder is clear:
Trump’s every action since taking office indicates he’s determined to stand up for American interests in a dangerous world. And he’s apparently not afraid that the United States military is unable to handle any situation that’s thrust upon it – in this case an unprovoked attack in a foreign war zone.
A president who was truly soft on Russia, or committing “treason” against his own country as the liberal media line is now hyping, wouldn’t be behaving like that.
(In fact, such a president would be behaving more like Barack Obama and his foreign policy team, who projected such weakness for eight long, disgraceful years.)
It might not fit the media narrative, but Trump’s closing quote summed it up well. Even if the anti-Trump reporters and editors of the American mainstream media don’t get it, Russia’s Putin does.
“He understands it and he’s not happy about it,” Trump said Wednesday. “But he shouldn’t be happy about it. Because there’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”
There’s plenty of evidence of that – helping arm the Ukraine military against Russia, sanctions, diplomatic expulsion – but the strongest evidence of all so far might be a battlefield in Syria the American anti-Trump media is trying to forget.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.