1. The Syrian strike reveals that Trump’s response, even to ghastly attacks, is a firm “just enough.” I compare it to smacking a dog’s nose with a newspaper, or spanking an unruly child in aisle 3 of Walmart. It’s not an act of war. It’s an act of “Yo, we’re back.” It’s a message that our diplomacy has more muscle than simply shrugging disapprovingly while checking Tinder. Hillary would do, and wanted to do, the same thing. You can damn Trump for changing his mind, but you would have damned him for doing the opposite.
There are two ways to explain the Syria strike. You can explain what happened: “Missiles hit a facility.” Or you can explain what it means: “This strike is exactly the perfunctory minimum we will perform to maintain a persona of resolute toughness without igniting an actual conflict with people we’re perhaps on the same side with when fighting ISIS.” That’s all it is — the comfortable middle ground between the impotence of doing nothing and the hysteria of escalation. Yes, America, you elected a centrist.
2. Pragmatism prevails, as was predicted by many who refuse to give in to apocalyptic notions about Trump. Even an oddball like me knew this: The guy is a non-ideological technocrat who is willing to shift gears to clobber the conspiratorial, transient opinions of his sweatiest ideological henchmen when hard facts enter the room. There are consequences: Principles of yore are obliterated by the bait-and-switch pragmatism that pulls leaders toward the center. But it happens in both parties, in every cycle.
Side note to righties: if you find yourself deceived by Trump and stuck idling in a conservative cul de sac — that’s your fault. New Yorkers always talk tough, then become “flexible.” But your naiveté is sweet. It beats looking phony after deriding “squishies” and “cucks” or whatever self-appointed bouncers of the Right tweet between laundry runs — only to defend Trump’s centrism later.
3. Economic nationalism will also show itself out, as global deals and coalitions call for cooperation. The world’s top dog, like it or not, should say “me first.” But “me” means the whole thirsty world gets a drink, because sooner or later, all bad things make their way to us, as all our good things make their way to them. You can’t isolate yourself in a phone booth. Just make your home safer, and then invite friends in.