I confess, I wonder if each president leaves a note for his successor in the Resolute Desk — “If your agenda fails, and your poll numbers are sinking, start a war with some country nobody cares about.” We’ll see if it works this time.
We’re hearing that Trump was so shocked at the hideous deaths of Syrian babies that he ordered air strikes. These are the same Syrian babies who must be blocked from entering the U.S. because they might be terrorists, so I’m not sure who he’s trying to kid.
There’s justification for it, absolutely. President Obama had advisers who wished he’d done something similar, and there were Democrats aplenty — Hillary Clinton apparently among them — who found his restraint when it came to Syria and the regime of Bashar al-Assad to be infuriating, a surrender of America’s role and moral authority in the world.
But Trump’s military action makes little sense in the context of most of what he said in the years before he was elected and much of what he has done as president so far. Let me get this straight: Obama wasn’t supposed to draw or be drawn across a red line, not even when the Assad regime used chemical weapons, but when the regime did that on Trump’s watch, it crossed “many, many lines,” in his words, and compelled an American response?
That’s a “dizzying turnabout,” as Blake Hounshell wrote in Politico, under the headline “Trump’s Syria Whiplash.” And I can’t square Trump’s statements over the last two days that the United States can’t stand by idly in the face of such grotesque suffering with his determination to bar those who suffer from being accepted as refugees into America. The babies prompt outrage and heartache when they’re writhing in Syria, but God forbid they come here.
It’s a dizzying turnabout for a man who complained endlessly during the presidential campaign about the trillions the United States had wasted on wars in the Middle East—and who urged his predecessor in 2013 not to launch “stupid” airstrikes to punish Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. …
… Only last Thursday, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was saying, “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out,” and Tillerson, borrowing language from Russian diplomats, was announcing, “the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”
Months ago, Trump was insisting that the focus of U.S. policy should be defeating ISIS, rather than ousting Assad. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he told Reuters in an interview. “You’re not fighting Syria anymore, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk,” he said. That was October. What happens next?
Who knows? I think he does what he feels like doing at the moment.
As policy, beyond snapping back at Assad for the war crime he committed earlier this week, I don’t see how this makes much of any sense. We learned a new word Thursday night—”deconfliction”—which is fairly defined as, “Blow shit up without killing any Russians because that could be a problem.” I love the new jargon that comes along every time we decide to make war in a place. So it’s unlikely that we will be involved in a shooting war with Russia, which is a good thing.
By the way, how long has it been since anybody asked the so-called president about his secret plan to eliminate ISIS? This might be a good time to roll that out.