There is no Rationale For Trump’s Syria Strike Other Than Politics
I argued in an earlier piece today that I don’t buy Trump’s Road to Damascus conversion, but think it’s more likely a Wag the Dog conversion.
I’m happy to see I’m in good company-a four star general agrees:
“Four-star Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey took aim at Donald Trump’s Syrian response on Thursday, claiming it would be a mistake for the commander-in-chief to rush the military into action without thinking it through.”
“McCaffrey said it would be a “mistake” to conduct “limited political signaling” in response to Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attack on his own people.”
“When MSNBC’s Chris Matthew’s asked McCaffrey what the rationale is behind Trump’s probable military intervention in Syria, besides political, the four-star general said:
“I don’t think there is an argument. I think it would be a mistake to conduct limited political signaling using naval airpower or F-16s flying out of some place in the region … Military power invited unknown consequences when you carry it out. The question might be why don’t we consider significant humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and border regions of Turkey and Jordan and Iraq in lieu of ineffectual military strikes.”
Again, what is the rationale except politics?
“But Trump has spent nearly three months in office racking up nothing but losses on issue after issue. In recent days, in particular, his administration has been drowning in scandal and incompetence, both with respect to Russia and the president’s paranoid claims about President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower.”
“Rushing to war will likely provide no positive, lasting impact on Syria, but it will change the subject and play into Trump’s phony strongman schtick.”
“It must be politics as what he did provides no benefit to the victims of Assad. Bombing an airport strip is not going to thwart Assad. It’s only benefit is for Trump to hopefully change the subject.”
“But like McCaffrey noted, the U.S. should be emphasizing its humanitarian role in all of this, like, say, helping the refugees or funding humanitarian aid, not rushing to engage our military.”
“Not only would this be a sensible response to this international crisis, but it would be much more effective than dropping bombs in order to score some political points.”
UPDATE: Dem Congressman and Russia probe hero, Adam Schiff points out Trump needs Congressional authorization and that this empty theater won’t get rid of Assad.
The Palmer Report goes further. It argues that Russia is in on this political charade. So note, this is only one extra step. I agree that this is wag the dog, but Palmer simply argues Russia was in it. This would seem a lot more outlandish before 2015 when we stepped through the Looking Glass sometime.
Now, how can you rule out anything? How can you ever trust Trump? His legitimacy is in question and therefore he shouldn’t be taking military action like this, certainly not without Congressional support.
Syria gas attack and Donald Trump’s military response don’t add up – unless Putin orchestrated it.”
“Let’s start with the gas attack in Syria. In my view, the rebels lack the motivation and the organization to have been behind it. And ISIS was so weakened during the Obama administration that it now lacks the muscle to have pulled this off (and ISIS would be loudly taking credit if it did). And yet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, genocidal as he may be, would not have done something like this without the approval of the Kremlin, because he is a longtime Russian puppet in both an economic and military sense.”
Let me be clear: I’m not saying I believe this-yet. Though I’m certainly not willing to rule it out at this point.
In assessing Palmer’s theory, we can evaluate it point by point. Is it true that Assad would not have done this without Putin?
“But Vladimir Putin knows full well that a gas attack like this was likely to prompt at least some kind U.S. military response against Assad. So Putin wouldn’t have been behind this unless he wanted the U.S. to take military action in Syria. And the only logical reason for Putin to want that is if he was trying to set up a win for Donald Trump, which could boost his historically low approval rating. It would also allow Trump to paint himself as being willing to go against Russian interests, as an argument against the most serious charges in the worsening Trump-Russia scandal.”
So in other words, Putin realizes Trump needs to break with him publicly and this is the perfect way to do it?
“Moreover, the U.S. Tomahawk missiles used in the attack could have been struck down by the S-400 weaponry which Russia already had in place in Syria (source: Washington Post) – but Russia chose not to do so. Additionally, NBC News is reporting on-air that the U.S. strike only took out planes and fueling stations, while leaving the two airstrips intact. The airstrips would have required significant reconstruction, but the equipment can theoretically be replaced tomorrow.”
“The U.S. attack seemed tailor made to look fierce to casual viewers at home, while inflicting as little real damage to Assad’s air force capability as possible. Trump went out of his way not to substantially impair Assad, and in return Russia went out of its way to allow the U.S. attack to happen. For that matter, Russia seemed to have already known what the U.S. would hit when it made the decision not to take out the incoming missiles. Regardless of any public jawing between the U.S. and Russia tonight, this reeks of carefully crafted military theater.”
I don’t have any doubt that it’s political theater on Trump’s part. The question is, could Russia be involved with it? That I’m not sure about-either way. I don’t think you can rule it out.
Russia does sound angry.
“In a furious response to the US action, Moscow also said it would suspend its channel for communicating military action in Syria with Washington, which has been used to prevent accidental conflict. A US-led coalition regularly launches air strikes against Isis and other jihadi groups in Syria while Russia has intervened militarily to back the Assad regime. “Russia suspends the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring the Safety of Aviation Operations during Operations in Syria with the US,” the foreign ministry said. It called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. The foreign ministry said the US had staged a show of force, “not bothering to sort out anything”, and “moved military against a country which is fighting international terrorism”. It claimed that the cruise missile strikes had been “prepared in advance”, and that this week’s gas attack on civilians in the Syrian province of Idlib had only been used as a pretext. “The actions taken by the US further damage Russian-American relations,” the ministry said. Russian state news agencies on Friday said President Vladimir Putin regarded the military action against the Shayrad base as “an aggression against a sovereign state . . . under a far-fetched pretext”.
Of course-big if-if this were a Russia-Trump conspiracy, Russia would need to sound mad. As Palmer says, Trump’s strike did no damage to Assad. And Trump did alert Russia to the strikes beforehand.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
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