Dumb and Dumber
Trump Strikes Syria!
“All Motion is Not Progress” observed Mao Tse Tung, a revolutionary philosopher and leader of the great Chinese Revolution. Americans who are applauding the strike on Syria with 59 Cruise missiles, at a cost of nearly 30 million dollars for the missiles alone, should take a pause and consider the implications of this action by our government. The paramount questions that begs an answer is: what is the strategic objective of US policy in Syria, and what role does this strike play in achieving that goal?
Based upon the public pronouncements of Donald Trump, who ordered the strike, and his surrogates the answers to these questions are elusive. This is because we have a President for whom the complexities of international relations are at best a mystery, as is the art and science of governing in general. Hence for years he has been an ardent opponent of the US taking any action against the Assad government. The comments of this tweeting twit on Twitter are prolific on this question.
Yet when a chemical weapon was dropped on a group of Syrian civilians, some reports claim in was the deadly Sarin gas, Trump was quick to blame it on President Obama’s weakness in failing to act in 2013, when somebody launched a gas attack in Syria. The criticism of President Obama’s failure to take military action is based on the fact that he had drawn a “Red Line” in the sand that would prompt an American military response if Assad crossed it.
However, President Obama’s reluctance to act militarily in this case was based on several factors: Uncertainty as to who employed the gas; the fact that he had pledged to voters that he would end America’s protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and keep us out of new wars in the Middle-East, and failure of the US Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria which he requested. Many people who voted for Obama did so based upon his promise of pursuing peace, I know I did.
Hence in my view, President Obama’s management of the Syrian situation displayed Solomonic wisdom. Furthermore, I would argue that this was characteristic of his approach to foreign policy in a turbulent time that witnessed the revolutionary outburst of mass movements collectively called the “Arab Spring,” the conflict in the Ukraine which could have thrown us into a military conflict with a nuclear armed Russia, and the rise of the militant Islamic Caliphate called ISIS, which arose from the ashes of the misbegotten US attack on Iraq. How fortunate we would be if only Trump were only half as wise.
All objective observers of US foreign policy during the Obama administration agree that his actions were well thought out and based on a strategic vision of international relations; he sought to build effective alliances with concerned parties in troubled areas of the world, and acted deliberately not impulsively. None of this is true of Donald Trump. He has no strategic vision because he does not appear to have ever thought deeply about anything beyond his next real estate or branding deal. His abdominal ignorance of the problems that he must now address is exemplified by his recent observation “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” and his sudden discovery that there are atrocities being committed against children in Syria.
Trump’s ignorance and indifference to the enormity and complexity of the Syrian conflict was exemplified in the policy statement by his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “The fate of President Assad will be determined by the Syrian people.” To begin with, this was a repudiation of the Obama doctrine that the pre-condition for a permanent settlement which could bring peace to Syria was the removal of Assad from office. Tillerson’s announcement was no fluke; it was a restatement of a long-held belief of his boss, whose views on the matter are widely documented in the public record.
Hence Trump’s attempt to blame President Obama for the recent gas attack is the acme of hypocrisy! It is the pronouncement of a shameless charlatan and pathological liar. At the time, while others condemned Obama for his restraint in Syria, “The Donald” praised it! His attempt to cast blame on Obama now is a transparent attempt to shift the blame from his ill-conceived policy of support for Assad expressed by Tillerson: Which is the real cause of the chemical attack. Since both Trump and Tillerson are novices at politics and foreign affairs, they failed to recognize that their statement was viewed by Assad as a green light to do whatever he wanted!
Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s attack on Syria must be seen as a smoke screen designed to deflect his responsibility for the horrendous gas attack on Syrian civilians; which the whole world viewed with stunned horror. Hence, like the clueless scatter brain that he is, Trump acted on impulse and attacked Syria. This is not part of any strategic plan because he has none. This is verified by the fact that just a few days ago he had no problem with Assad’s leadership – as Tillerson’s policy statement nad Trump’s long record of support for the Syrian butcher will testify.
All observable evidence suggest that Trump gave no more thought to this assault on a sovereign country – with no attempt to get the support of the United Nations, the Arab League, the US Congress, or any of the regional powers – than his pre-dawn Twitter attacks. It is an erratic, irrational, temper tantrum with no thought about its consequences. And as the dawn of a new day approaches – Alas, I am writing this in the wee hours because the gravitas of the questions raised by this latest American military assault invades my dreams and destroys any attempt to sleep – we can only wonder what new dramas it will bring.
Just as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq with the spectacular bombing spree labeled “Shock and Awe,” millions of Americans are applauding this attack on Syria by American military forces. I titled my essay on Bush’s attack “March Madness,” and I warned of its unintended consequences;which verily came to pass pretty much as I predicted. I am titling this essay “April Fools?” The title reflects my contention that this strike is not well thought out and the unintended consequences could prove disastrous.
Aside from the fact that we might have injured or killed some Russian military personnel, which would throw us into a crisis with a nuclear armed Russia that can reduce every city in the United States to a pile of radio-active rubble in a half hour from now, this attack on Syria is as illegal under international law as was the invasion of Iraq. Yet after all is said and done, the most alarming thing about this attack is the real possibility that Trump launched it to improve his popularity in the opinion polls, where his approval rating is at a historic low.
As cynical as this sounds, when we consider the fact that Trump closed America’s doors to the children of war torn Syria seeking refuge in America, despite pictures every bit as horrible as those from the gassing, a thoughtful person cannot help but view his present concern for their welfare with a jaundiced eye, a cynical attempt to benefit from their tragedy. As depraved as this seems, it is typical behavior for a “con man” with “no moral center;” which is how Donald J. Trump was routinely described by his fellow Republicans…..before he won the election, moved into the Oval Office, and promised to make all their right-wing dreams come true.
One of the most troubling questions raised by this attack is, if Trump can so quickly turn on a Head of State whom he has supported for years, what effect will this have on other nations at whom Trump has directed a steady stream of threats and invective such as North Korea, Iran and even China.
As I write the Chinese leader is visiting with Trump at his palatial estate in Florida, where he spends almost as much time as he spends in Washington, at great expense to American tax payers. Although his home town, New York City, is much closer: he dare not come here. In fact, Trump is so dispised in this city he may never be able to come home again! It will be interesting to hear what Chinese President, Xi Jinpin, has to say about the attack on Syria. Being a disciplined political actor skilled at the art of diplomacy I suspect his remarks will be restrained, respectful of the norms that mediate relations between nations.
Xi Jinping is here on a mission to improve relations with the US, China’s main trading partner. As the leader of a nation with 20% of the world’s population, the Chinese are very careful to avoid military conflicts despite their formidable armed forces. It is a policy that serves them well; it has allowed them to modernize at a rapid pace and grow the second largest economy in the world, which is predicted to surpass the US in GDP by 2050.
The paramount principle that guides Chinese foreign policy is non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign countries. And they stick to this policy without significant deviation. They have the largest army in the world but no foreign bases or troop deployments. On the other hand, the US, with a fraction of China’s population have bases and soldiers all over the world and are fighting in multiple wars that seem unending.
The amount of blood and treasure we expend on foreign military adventures – along with the failure of the plutocrats to pay their fair share of taxes – is the principal reason why we cannot afford to rebuild our aging crumbling infrastructure, which is essential to our prosperity. The Chinese see this all to clearly, and they are determined not to follow our example of meddling in everyone’s affairs as if the Gods gave America a mandate to rule the world.
This is why I am convinced that the Chinese will not play the role of disciplining North Korea for developing a nuclear weapons program that the US has assigned them. And given the US attack on Syria, the North Koreans are probably going on a war footing for real, imperiling the future of South Korea, which would be devastated if a war broke out on the Korean peninsula.
However listening to the pundits and the politicians on both sides of the aisle, as they raise their voices in something resembling victory cheers, I dispair for the prospects of peace. The danger of perpetual war is real and is reflected in the comment of that old warmongering chameleon John McCain: “This is not the beginning of the end….but the end of the beginning.”
History will judge Trump and his belicose confederates with unrelenting candor…and their deadly devious deeds will be duly noted. But, alas, dealing with the unintended consequences of the Twittering Twit’s impulsive bombing of Syria, remains the burden of all Americans at this moment.
The US War on Syria has begun!
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Dissents
Tellin it like it is!
There is an avalanche of opinions now being expressed on Trump’s attack on Syria, but none is more compelling than that of Congresswonam Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic Representative from Hawaii. Congresswoman Gabbard’s remarks are especially important because she is a former combat officer from the Afghan war, Her experience in combat there has made he a passionate non-interventionists who is hostile to “Chicken Hawks” who promote wars for other’s to fight. Like Donnie Trump . a notorious Vietnam era draft dodger, who avoided the war not for principled philosophical or religious reasons. but because he was a rich, entitled, cowardly party boy. The great columnist and native New Yorker, who also hailed from Queens like Donnie, had this to say of his Homie: “Trump is a fake tough guy who couldn’t fight his way out of an empty lot!!!”
Athough celebrated corporate pudits such as Thomas Friedman, the three time Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist at the New York Times, Joined by David Ignacious and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, are gushing over the reckless bravado of Donald Trump, I remain highly skeptical about the mission’s motive, utility and consequences.
Yet because he is such a pompous know-it-all the contrarian in my soul cannot resist pointing out that Tommy Friedman was grieveously mistaken about the Iraq War; he went so far off the beam in supporting Bush’s war of choice with spurious ahistorical arguments that he was forced to write a column apologizng to his readers for having led them astray by “not asking the right questions.” On the other hand my essay, written on the eve of the invasion, has withstood the test of time and been confirmed by history. Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” it reads as if it were written by Nostradamus, and can be read on this site under the heading “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.”
What Friedman and other “major” corporate mooks of both of both political pursuasions had to say on that subject is analyzed in my essay “How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank.” The fun part of this essay is when their views about the Iraq War is compared to mine! Alas, what these same pundits had to say on Trump’s bombing of Syria last night sounds like pompous American exceptionalist bullshit when compared to what Tulsi Gabbad had this to say about the fake President’s military adventure:
“It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States’ attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning. If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”
A Decorated Combat Officer
For more on this remarkable woman search her name on this site.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 7, 2017