Morning Glory: Can Donald Trump restore deterrence?

First, some reminders. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine twice: When former President Obama was president and again when Joe Biden was president. 

President Obama precipitously withdrew American forces from Iraq in late 2011. ISIS announced itself in 2013 and by 2014 had seized a vast territory in Iraq and Syria.

Donald Trump took office in January of 2017. By December 2017, the ISIS caliphate had lost 95 percent of its territory, including the Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa in northern Syria, which ISIS had named its capital. 

The battle to re-take Mosul began in February 2017 and was complete in July of that year. U.S. forces killed the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in late October, 2019, two weeks after Raqqa was liberated. 

Former President Obama entered into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) with Iran in July of 2015. Trump withdrew from that deeply flawed agreement in May of 2018 and began the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran which brought Iran to the brink of bankruptcy by the end of 2020. Following attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iranian proxy forces in Iraq, Trump ordered the assassination of Qasem Soleimani on January 3, 2020. 


The Taliban entered into the Doha Agreement with former President Trump and abided by its terms while Trump remained in office. The Taliban discarded the Doha Agreement soon after President Biden was sworn in. The United States took no actions to enforce its terms. The chaotic American retreat from Afghanistan ended in August of 2021 and was a catastrophe that everyone remembers. 


Former President Obama told Syrian dictator Bashir Assad that using chemical weapons was a “red line” that Assad should not cross.  Assad crossed it and the U.S. did… nothing. 

When Assad twice used chemical weapons against his own people again, President Trump ordered two waves of missile strikes on Syrian facilities and personnel, one in 2017 and one in 2018. 

When Syrian and Russian troops attacked American Special Forces in Syria in 2018, the attacking force was demolished in a fierce battle. The United States forces did not retreat. Deterrence was established. No further attacks by Russian troops on American forces followed. 

Iran and its proxies have been emboldened by the Biden Administration’s desperate attempts to revive the JCPOA. Sanctions on Iran were first waived by Biden on June 10, 2021. Additional waivers followed and Iran refilled its coffers. 

Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7, 2023. Iran directly attacked Israel on April 13, 2024. In between those dates Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has repeatedly launched barrages of missiles, rockets and RPGs at Israel from southern Lebanon, and the Houthis —another proxy of Iran— have kept up their missile attacks on Red Sea shipping from their bases in Yemen. Iran’s proxies in Iraq and Syria have repeatedly attacked U.S. forces and Israel, with three American soldiers killed and 40 wounded in Jordan in January. “In terms of attribution for the attack, we know this is an [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ]-backed militia,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said at the time. “It has the footprints of Kataib Hezbollah.” Iran is clearly not deterred by Team Biden. 

Putin’s forces are again advancing in Ukraine. China continues to rapidly expand its navy even as ours shrinks. The People’s Liberation Army and Navy continue to threaten Taiwan and the Philippines. 

So that’s a quick review of the record of events on President Trump’s watch and on President Biden’s watch. Clearly, Trump deterred the worst actors in the world and Biden does not. National security does not register high on the list of voters’ concerns in this era of inflation. It will be up to Trump’s campaign to remind voters whether they—and the world—were safer under Trump or Biden.

Hugh Hewitt is host of “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” heard weekday mornings 6am to 9am ET on the Salem Radio Network, and simulcast on Salem News Channel. Hugh wakes up America on over 400 affiliates nationwide, and on all the streaming platforms where SNC can be seen. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel’s news roundtable hosted by Brett Baier weekdays at 6pm ET. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990.  Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and his column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio/ TV show today.


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