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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trump's strike against Assad: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is my early assessment of Trump's Syria strike.

1.) The Good

Anyone who has followed Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail and beyond knows that he was bound to make a military "show of force" somewhere in the world early in his presidency. If that be the case. What better target than Assad, especially after this flagrant crime - dropping sarin from aircraft on civilians?

Apparently it was a limited one-off strike against a military airbase far from civilian population centers, so hopefully the real civilian casualty rate is low, no matter what the Assad regime and Russians say. They always lie about such things. To hear them tell it, they have yet to kill a single civilian in Syria:

From those who still claim there is no real proof that Assad was behind the 21 August 2013 sarin attack, I have yet to hear them respond to this United Nations report:

The air strike has given the Syrian people a much needed boost. They are celebrating the strike in Syrian refugee camps all around the world and also in Syria:
“It was the happiest news that I’ve heard in my life,” said Ahmad, a resident of Khan Sheikhoun, a witness to the apparent chemical attack on Tuesday who lost friends and neighbors. His name has been changed to protect his identity.

Had Obama made even a weak symbolic gesture like this after Assad's 21 August 2013 sarin attack, al Qaeda and ISIS never would have been able to capitalize on the West's failure to act as they did. Maybe, ISIS wouldn't have been able to recruit enough fighters to take Mosul so soon after. Sometimes even symbolic gestures, or the lack of them, can be very powerful. But I think their celebration misplaced and premature.

A message really did need to be sent to Assad. I do believe that if something like this had been done by Obama after 21 August 2013, with or without congressional approval, the world would be a very different place now. This wouldn't be happening again. ISIS wouldn't be the force it is now. Russia wouldn't be the dominate force in Syria now. The Syrian refugee crisis wouldn't be the massive tragedy it has become. Trump wouldn't be president. See my hundreds of blog posts on Syria since 2011 for details. But now it is too little to late.

If you haven't read or heard Nikki Haley's full statement to the UN about the Syria CW attack, I highly recommend it. I think they are among the most eloquent and powerful words delivered by any US UN representative. Titled Remarks at an Emergency UN Security Council Meeting on Chemical Weapons in Syria, 5 April 2017. They began:
It was interesting to hear of the talk from my Russian colleague about the independent investigations and the importance of them, because this entire Security Council decided on what the Joint Investigative Mechanism would be and decided what it would do, and it was actually voted on unanimously. And the joint mechanism came back and said that the Syrian government committed chemical weapons acts against their own people three different times. But somehow now we don’t like what the Joint Investigative Mechanism does. More ...
That is a powerful rebuke to those that say we must wait for the results of an independent investigation. Been there, done that.

And although Trump took unilateral action against Assad, and everybody from Democracy Now to PressTV has misquoted Haley to say she called for unilateral US action [with Press TV, saying 'The United States threatens to take “its own action”' when the quoted phrase can't be found in Haley's statement], that is not what it literally says, it correctly calls for collective action that disallows the Russian veto.

But that is the Good.

2.) The Bad

This the one lighthearted tweets I sent out on Wednesday, but I think it reflects a certain truth, that the arrogant know-it-all Trump is coming face to face with the reality that there is a lot he doesn't know. The way I account for his reaction Wednesday:
“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact,”
is basically shock. It's quite possible he never really had to confront what is happening in Syria, look upon the images of dead children. Certainly, US media has made them easy to avoid, especially in his world. In 2013 he was tweeting against Obama striking Assad.

So what I read most in his statement is the shock of the moment, at the pictures he woke up to, and he got angry. He's human after all. But I have no doubt he will quickly recover his equilibrium and return to the old line. You see, I'm from Atlantic City. We have that in common. So I know that if shock at the devastation he himself has caused, let alone capitalism in general, has not long ago had a lasting impact and turned him away from the dark side, it won't happen now.

Trump did this entirely on his own authority. He neither sought congressional authority or public approval for his actions. This was probably illegal and entirely unwarranted. Unwarranted, first because his party controls both houses of congress. If Obama had claimed the need to act without congressional approval because he saw a moral imperative and was saddled with a congress that would deny him just because he was asking, he would have had a point, but Trump can't make that argument.

There is also the Cui Bono Test, and there is no question that Trump benefited greatly from this strike.  On Tuesday morning, when the sarin bombs fell on Khan Sheikhoun, the Trump presidency was at historic lows in popularity ... more on that later.

3.) The Ugly

It would appear that this strike took place because one man, US President Donald Trump, was forced to confront the carnage that has been going on in Syria fir six years, and got angry. We can only wish that the deaths of children at his own hand in Mosul three weeks ago would have caused such revulsion. It is never a good idea to order military action when you are angry.

It confirmed my worst fears, that the man who now has his hand on the nuclear trigger is willing to order airstrikes at a moment's notice, and little consultation, based on his emotional state at the time:

If the US Peace and Justice movement mobilizes to protest these air strikes against Assad in a way they haven't since the last time he was threatened for using sarin, in a way they haven't about the 8,000 other US airstrikes on Syrian soil, in a way they didn't about Trump's 17 March bombing in Mosul, and in a way they never have to protest the murder of a half-million Syrians, that too will be part of the ugly.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

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