With President Trump, I think we’re still in the “wait and see” period. The week before Holy Week, though, we saw some substantial evidence of his recourse to an important Catholic principle.
It’s the Principle of Subsidiarity, which says that power is best left, as much as possible, at the lower levels of an organization, in the hands of the people who are most familiar with the circumstances surrounding each situation. A great example was Saint Pope John Paul the Great’s handling of Communism in Poland; he could have focused on “top-down” methods, but his greatest success there was achieved by empowering Lech Walesa and letting his Solidarity movement do its work.
Ask anyone whom their favorite boss was, and they’ll likely give you the name of someone who operates on this principle. Bosses who adhere to it generally hire people they trust, put each one in a place that will be a great fit and that accounts for the employees’ preferences, and then let them do their jobs freely, only intervening when needed.
Trump’s response to Syria’s chemical attack reflected this approach in some very clear ways. First, according to his statements, he stepped in when he felt the situation was unresolvable by other means and that a responsibility had shifted to him. According to his earlier statements, he was all for letting Assad and others in the region work it out on their own up until Assad’s use—after the failure of extensive diplomatic efforts—of a nerve agent on innocent Syrians.
The way Trump went about arriving at the decision reflected this principle, too. According to reports (including this NY Times account), he relied heavily on input from military advisors—the people on the ground and dealing with the intricacies of the Middle East crisis every day. If the reports we have are correct, then his decision-making process reflected a great trust in those military commanders—and a great respect for the fact that they—not he—would be the ones on the frontline handling the immediate fallout of whatever option he chose.
Finally, there was Trump’s statement in response to the week’s events:
“Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.” [Emphasis mine]
Even knowing that these words might not have necessarily come from Trump’s own pen, we can see that they reflect, at the very least, a deference on his part to the faith of a large segment of the nation he’s charged with serving.
I’m not saying the strike was just. It’s not likely we civilians are privy to the most important information on this one and without it, I don’t think we can accurately determine that. I’m still in the “wait and see” period regarding President Trump in general, too, and, with the reported Jared Kushner-George Soros link, the mainstream media’s suddenly-more-balanced approach, and Hillary’s quick approval of the strike, it looks as if I just might be “waiting and seeing” another seven-and-a-half years. Regarding Trump’s approach to Syria, though, what we saw reflected recourse to a specific and important Catholic principle.
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