Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on Syria. Why? These are my musings.
First, some speculation on the background:
To be clear, I don’t believe at all that Assad intentionally gassed his own people. It would be damn near suicidal and makes no sense. He’s been winning the war with conventional methods and the White House just basically said they would be leaving him alone. For him to then turn around and do the ONE thing that would assuredly draw Western forces into Syria even more would be madness. Assad may be cruel, but he isn’t an idiot.
The rebels are clearly the ones who stand to benefit the most from the world thinking Assad gassed his people, and there’s ample evidence that the al Qaeda-affiliated White Helmets were at least complicit in the attack. But that’s another article for another time. I’ve given you plenty of info to Google if you’d like.
I do believe Trump is somewhat held hostage by the military-industrial complex. They have the power to completely marginalize and neuter him politically. Imagine if even, say, a half-dozen GOP senators flipped on him and refused to support his domestic agenda. He’s already dealing with narrow enough margins that they’d pretty much have him by the balls.
So this is a reminder that the president isn’t really the most powerful person in the world, whatever Trump’s instincts or desires are.
Of course, Trump could be totally on-board and this could be completely in line with his intentions. I just don’t really buy that he’s that shallow or hypocritical, given how much he’s hammered the US for involving itself in Syria.
Now on to the strategy:
It looks like it’s intended as a shot across the bow, a warning to the entire world that this administration won’t hesitate to respond aggressively with force. With the current situations in Iran and North Korea, I’m not surprised they jumped at an opportunity to make a show of force.
Trump spent the last four days with China, Russia, and Jordan. The Chinese president is with Trump in Mar-a-lago right now. Reports have already come out that Russia was warned ahead of time and that a long list of countries signed off on it.
I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Assad himself knew it was coming. “Look bud, whether you did it or not, something has to happen. We need to make a statement to our people, and we need to send a message to other nations, so get your people out.”
Thus far it appears there were no casualties. So it was a limited strike targeted at only infrastructure in the early morning with advance warning. I can’t help but think a measured but serious approach like this screams Mattis. While I’m not happy about it, I’m glad it’s not more.
Ordering a missile strike on Putin’s close ally certainly renders the “Trump is a Putin pawn” conspiracy theory even more impotent than it already was. Many of Trump’s critics are desperately trying to extend their criticism of him to this point, but the awkward thing about that is, they’re forced into adopting the weak position of “Trump shouldn’t punish Assad for chemical warfare.” That’s a pretty tough message to push for people who have spent weeks in shrieking hysterics about the refugee crisis.
This will assuredly send Trump’s popularity numbers shooting up. He comes out looking decisive and “presidential” (as perverse as it is that military action is what it takes to look presidential), and he isn’t tagged with necessarily escalating armed conflict or inflicting civilian casualties.
So while I’m disappointed that the US is continuing to militarily engage in the region at all, I can understand some reasoning behind it, and I’m glad it hasn’t been more extensive–yet.