New York Times resident conservative columnist Ross Douthat, who was a “NeverTrump” pundit during the 2016 election, has acknowledged President Donald Trump’s success in defeating the so-called “Islamic State” — and says Trump deserves credit for his foreign policy overall.
In a column titled “The War Trump Won,” Douthat writes that “if you had told me in late 2016 that almost a year into the Trump era the caliphate would be all-but-beaten without something far worse happening in the Middle East, I would have been surprised and gratified.”
Last October, with Election Day looming, Douthat had written that “the risks of Trump are so distinctive as to throw the perils of a Clinton presidency into relative eclipse.” He warned of the possibility of “a rapid escalation of risk in every geopolitical theater.”
A year later, Douthat is surprised — and impressed — by Trump’s performance: “[F]or now, the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East has been moderately successful, and indeed close to what I would have hoped for from a normal Republican president following a realist-internationalist course.”
Douthat faults the press — including himself — for ignoring the victory over ISIS and “not adequately reporting an important success because it does not fit into the narrative of Trumpian disaster in which our journalistic entities are all invested.”
He explains further:
In particular, Trump has avoided the temptation often afflicting Republican uber-hawks, in which we’re supposed to fight all bad actors on 16 fronts at once. Instead he’s slow-walked his hawkish instincts on Iran, tolerated Assad and avoided dialing up tensions with Russia. The last issue is of course entangled with the great collusion debate — but it’s still a good thing that our mini-cold war has remained relatively cool and we aren’t strafing each other over Syria.
And the Trump strategy on Israel and the Palestinians, the butt of many Jared Kushner jokes, seems … not crazy? The relatively mild reaction to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may be a case study in expert consensus falling behind the facts; the Arab world has different concerns than it did in 1995, and Trump’s move has helped clarify that change.
He concludes: So very provisionally, credit belongs where it’s due — to our soldiers and diplomats, yes, but to our president as well.
Read Douthat’s full column here.