It is not written in the tone or the capitalization of a statesman, nor does it reflect the knowledge or perspective of an expert, but Donald Trump had a point in 2013 when he tweeted this:
AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA - IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
Set aside for a minute his gratuitous ad hominem at Obama, and his unseemly selfishness at the end of the tweet. Focus on the middle:
"DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA - IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN...."
There is a large debate over what the U.S. should have done in Syria in 2013, should have done earlier, and should do now. War is impossibly foggy, and there is no course of action that avoids all bad consequences. But in that tweet you can sniff out a bit of wisdom that is absent in both parties: Regime change in the Muslim world can remove something bad, but leave a vacuum that invites something worse.
Iraq and Libya are the two most obvious recent examples. ISIS might owe its strength to those regime changes.
Trump regularly said things like this, about Iraq and Libya and Syria. This gave hope to some anti-war types on the Right that he would abandon the bipartisan interventionism that has defined the years since the Cold War ended.
I never bought into that hope, because I think Trump's temperament is to fight when a fight is to be had. This may explain why he at first didn't oppose Iraq, and only came to oppose it later (though earlier than most Republicans).
Assad is terrible. His actions are horrific. It could be that today the right move is some sort of U.S. military intervention. But the idea buried amid Trump's capital letters in 2013 is an idea he should keep in mind today.
Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's commentary editor, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.