Military

So Trump bombed Syria. No doubt his crew will be ecstatic that the great man flexed some military muscle and sent a few well-guided missiles down the enemy’s chimney. But is there more? Or is Trump now satisfied because he has been seen to be doing something?

Questions were raised – and not just by Democrats – about the legality of the act. Although at this point Presidents seem to have been bombing things since 1950 without much concern for the fine points of the law.

Each missile costs $250,000. Nothing works better than a flag to pick a patriot’s pocket.

Trump himself justified the event by saying he was protecting ‘vital national interests’. Which he enumerated as preventing and deterring “the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons”. Although it is hard to see how Assad would engineer a chemical attack on the US. And if he were so inclined, I am not sure how bombing an airstrip dissuades him.

In addition, Trump was fighting mad that Assad had used nerve gas on his own citizens. He mourned the children. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror”. A noble sentiment even if the language is turgid with cloying hypocrisy. Should this cynical invoker of the Lord’s name be truly solicitous of these beautiful babies he would let Syrian refugees into the US.

Having gone it alone – no mention is made of any consultation with foreign leaders – he urges unity of purpose, “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria”. I suppose that now all the chat about unpaid defense bills, and the stupidity of international organizations, will get swept under the rug. Maybe he will even deign to shake Angela Merkel’s hand.

And let’s not forget the bete noire of the right-wing and their ‘hide under the bed’ acolytes – ISIS. Trump promises that this Syrian event is part of his desire, “to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.” Here he does not grasp realpolitik.

Assad, the “Death Dealer of Damascus” (no true villain is fully realized without a moniker – see “Butcher of Baghdad”) is a complete shit. No doubt the world would be a better place with his demise. But from a fighting terrorism point of view, he’s more use to us in power, than he is dead.

ISIS is not Assad’s friend. In fact, they want part of Syria for their Caliphate. Assad might be gassing his own people but he is not doing it to benefit that lunatic mob.

Let’s also consider the eminently reasonable suggestion that Trump is perfectly happy to fire off some military hardware to divert from his Russian imbroglio. It may not have the effect he wished for. The fact that Russia was alerted to the action might be another strike against his protestations of indifference to Russia’s concerns.

Another fly in his ointment – and this extends to his apparatchiks in Congress – is his documented warning to Obama not to do what he just did. Marco Rubio – to cite just one example – has also ignored the wisdom of his younger self to give Trump a pat on the back. Let me note here that Rubio has my backing in his pursuit of the “Most Craven Politico” award, for his willingness to lick the hand that so casually slapped him during the primaries.

Which brings us to Ted Cruz. He cannot make up his mind. He appears to be pulling the petals off a flower while chanting “Trump loves me, Trump loves me not”. He huffed that Trump was playing with America’s military without getting Congress’ permission.

As did Justin Amash and Rand Paul. Who at least have been consistently either opposed to Trump’s shenanigans or at least been consistently anti-war. Trump will be peeved however that Paul clung to his passivism even though Trump had organized a play date with him.

But enough of the soap opera. What is next? I think boots on the ground is a non-starter. It’s not that Trump cares about American lives, but his generals do. And they seem to be the only people he listens to  – besides the ubiquitous Jared Kushner.

He could launch more missiles. But the imagery gets old quickly. And despite their propaganda value, air strikes do little to degrade an enemy’s ability to fight. And counter-productively, often stiffen his spine.

Diplomacy would be what grown-ups would try. But that requires an attention span and a tact that God did not gift to Trump. Normally the heavy lifting would be done the Secretary of State. But he has been marginalized. And should Tillerson get the nod there is nothing in his resume that suggests an ability to get people to agree on anything except how to make money from oil.

And Syria doesn’t have any. Which also means that Tillerson would first have to figure out where it was on a map. Which leaves Kushner.

I’m afraid he isn’t ready. As proof, I offer exhibit one. A photograph of a man who, faced with the decision whether a bulletproof vest should be worn over or under a jacket – decided wrong.

How this all shakes out time will tell. But while we wait let’s consider motivation. With Obama, you could rest assured that regardless whether his actions would prove effective or not, they had been thought through and were designed to help. With Trump you know that at best he devoted five minutes to the project – and his only concern was how the strike would make him look.

 

 

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